Many areas in Zimbabwe’s second largest city went for a fifth day without water on Friday as the Minister for Water Resources, Sam Sipepa Nkomo, was in Bulawayo for crisis meetings with the MDC-T Provincial Council.
The Bulawayo City Council declared a water emergency in July as lower-than-usual rainfall continued to plague the area. A water rationing plan put in place at the time was supposed to see residents go for a day without water, twice a week. But the last two weeks have been much worse for many residents.
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme reports that the situation has been critical this week, without any help being provided by the City Council.
“There is an emergency situation here yet the city has not even started using bowsers to bring water to people. There are 350 boreholes in the city and only a few are motorized. About 110 of them are also not working,” Saungweme said.
He added that residents lucky enough to have boreholes were helping their neighbours, but the supplies are not enough to make a difference to many people who still struggle daily to find basic water supplies.
According to Saungweme, two out of Bulawayo’s five dams were decommissioned last year after water levels dropped. If the drought conditions persist and no repairs are made to the infrastructure, two more may have to be closed.
Samuel Sipepa Nkomo met with members of the MDC-T provincial structures Friday. Our correspondent said he also tackled the water situation and the bad publicity it has brought the MDC-T led Council.
“The Minister knows that ZANU PF caused all these problems through neglect. But there is propaganda here blaming the MDC-T led Council and he has to address that issue today,” Saungweme said.
The MP for Bulawayo South, Eddie Cross agreed. He told SW Radio Africa that many Bulawayo residents do not fully understand why there is such a water problem in the province and Minister Sipepa Nkomo was explaining the situation to their Council so that they can explain it to their constituencies.
Cross said the most affected areas were the high-density suburbs located on the outskirts of the city. Distribution to those areas is more difficult and current problems with power cuts have made a bad situation worse.
“Load shedding has not helped with the distribution of water to the peripheral areas and a power surge at Wankie Station on Tuesday also affected distribution,” Cross explained.
“In the last 15 years the population in our cities has doubled. Harare now has about 4.5 million people and Bulawayo has 1.2 million to 1.3 million. Our infrastructure was built to serve only 600,000 people,” The MP said.
As for immediate plans to help Bulawayo, Cross said the city is rushing to complete a pipeline from one of the dams, which will help distribute water to the high density suburbs. This should be completed in the next two weeks.
According to Cross, the City Council has also negotiated a deal that will help increase the production of clean water from 5,000 cubic metres to 15,000 each day from just one dam. This will supply at least 20% of Bulawayo’s daily consumption needs. The 110 boreholes that were not working are currently being repaired and this should help many people.
Water shortages have plagued many other parts of the country, including the capital Harare. Years of neglect and corruption under ZANU PF and growing urban populations, have all combined to create the current water problems that plague Zimbabwe.