BULAWAYO’s perennial water crisis has hogged the limelight for far too long, especially towards an election, and it’s time politicians stop politicking over the issue, but deliver the precious liquid.
It’s an indictment on the Zanu PF regime that the matter has been on its drawing board since independence in 1980 without much progress, forcing many would-be investors to think twice before investing in the country’s second capital.
Water shortages have been a burning issue in Bulawayo and Matabeleland for over 100 years since the Rhodesian government mooted the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to ease the region’s water problems.
But successive governments since then appear to view the crisis as a platform for political grandstanding, hence delays in resolving it.
When the project was mooted in 1912 at a cost of £6 000, the colonial administration then claimed it was too expensive. Twenty years later, Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins said the country could not afford the £60 000 needed for the project.
Similar cost justification was given in the 1950s by Prime Minister Edgar Whitehead when a budget of £600 000 was tabled for the project. When the independent Zimbabwean government adopted the project, it has been the same flimsy excuses even after construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam started in 2004.
The project has been moving at a snail’s pace with government citing financial constraints. Budgets have been made for the project year after year and it appears they always fall short when it matters most.
For this year, the government allocated $4 532 400 000 for the Gwayi-Shangani Dam completion and out of the total allocation, a paltry $535 million has been released for the piping that will connect Bulawayo to the project. Looking at the distance to be covered, one would easily conclude that government won’t finish the targeted work using this little amount.
Considering the slowness of the construction works, it is obvious that by the time work begins at site, the costs of material would have eroded the power of the money allocated.
In March 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to do everything in his capacity to ensure that the project is completed by 2019, but to date, it is the same old song. Citizens are tired of these empty promises and government must be seen to be fulfilling its promises rather than resorting to fooling people year after year.
The time for politicking using an important resource such as water is over. The population in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North is growing and the water supply dams available can no longer sustain the demand for water.
Gwayi-Shangani Dam is the only current remedy that can relieve the city and the region of the high water demand and Mnangagwa should move beyond rhetoric.