BULAWAYO City Council should not be faulted for water woes bedevilling the city as the government has failed to construct dams as mandated by the country’s Water Act, the local authority has said.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A 1998 amendment of the Water Act gives the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) the mandate to construct dams and provide water to municipalities.
Bulawayo, which lies in the arid southern Matabeleland region, is facing serious water shortages with residents going for more than a week without supplies.
Bulawayo has faced perennial water problems for more than two decades during which both residents and the city fathers have pinned their hopes on an ambitious project to draw water from the Zambezi River.
The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), a long held plan to tap water from the Zambezi River through the construction of a 450km pipeline to arid Matabeleland, was mooted way back in 1912.
Council spokesperson Nesisa Mpofu said the city’s woes could have been alleviated had it not been for the Water Act which did not allow the local authority to construct dams.
“Construction of dams and provision of raw water rests with the government through the Ministry of Water since the amendment of the Act in 1976. Only Mtshabezi Dam and the Nyamandlovu Aquifer have been implemented for Bulawayo since then and the Gwayi Shangani Dam is progressing albeit slowly,” Mpofu said in an emailed response to Southern Eye.
“In Bulawayo, we have Zinwa who according to the Act are the custodians and providers of raw water to municipalities…the provision of raw water rests with the government through Zinwa.”
In 1992, the late activist Arnold Payne became a household name when he pushed a wheelbarrow with a 210-litre drum filled with water which he had drawn from Zambezi River to Bulawayo, Gwanda and Harare to highlight the city’s water woes.
The act was considered as a symbolic gesture meant to raise the urgency of the matter with those in positions of authority to spearhead the development of the MZWP.
Payne at the time claimed he had sourced funds from Holland in 1992, but because the government wanted the money to be channelled through Treasury, the donors refused to release the donation.
During the same year, he formed a trust to raise funds for the water project, without success.