Centralisation of governance systems root cause for Bulawayo water crisis

By Abednico Siambombe

One of my friends during a discussion iterated that we in Zimbabwe need to ask why China our all-weather friend has poured US8illion in Mozambique, US$5billion in Zambia and Malawi, set up a car assembly plant in Springs South Africa yet Zimbabwe gets only US$0.5 billion. We are simply not doing the right thing: and then there is corruption. Chinese investment into the tumbling economy of Zimbabwe has queries unquenched. I have been just imagining as we set with my colleagues meditating why the Binga- Bulawayo water pipeline project has taken many decades without completion, why the Bulawayo region if not Matabeleland has more water problems as compared to the eastern parts of Zimbabwe. The fate of the project runs deep in the aortas and veins of the mother government and the moniker Local authority well known as Bulawayo City Council (BCC).

The politics of patronage and policies designed along racial or tribal lines in contemporary African context have some negative results when scrutinised. Bulawayo, the second capital of Zimbabwe runs for seventy-two hours without water in the beginning of summer on yearly basis. The town council calls this water shedding; a miserable term manufactured to justify leadership failure and evading responsibility in such times. Though the town council is responsible for all this mess, there is need for the government to intervene with measures to abate such unfriendly disaster. Bulawayo is no longer a health society due to the absence of water and worse there is no bush for people to squat when conscripted with a call of nature. The houses smell like the garbage in hell due to the shit not flushed in chambers and the probability of the outbreak of the common cholera pandemic is now promising to be a reality.

The Zimbabwean government once embarked on a massive project that saw the potency of snatching water from the Zambezi River in the past century without a hope of benefiting the local Binga people who live in the banks of the river. This is an embarrassing development policy. However, this project is just a talk show which has ended nowhere and the people are still optimistic of its success to relieve the town of Bulawayo of its water shortages. Who knows where this has ended or where it will end? Obvious the answer rests on corruption and the responsible minister should have given answers to the people to show accountability in the governance issues.

The Binga- Bulawayo water project had the potency of accelerating a foothold in the tumbling economy. More people were going to be employed during and after installation, poverty would have been waived too in general and above all the living conditions would be at a better level now in the town of Bulawayo. For the people of Binga, the gods have heard their cries because some of the places like Manjolo, Siachilaba and parts of Saba proximity to the might Zambezi River have no access to such clean piped water and life is not as normal as perceived by many.

Zimbabwe had a chance to maximise on the Marange diamonds investors to attract more foreign investment which would have upgraded the lives of many. However, the corrupt nature of the leadership system has led to the Chinese investors to seed more in the neighbouring states, with Zimbabwe getting a meagre aid fund and a lump sum of finance meant for the establishment of the hacking system on people’s communication. This is a fear mushrooming in the midst of people’s needs. In common development priorities, there is no rush in venturing into unnecessary spending when the people are wallowing in anguish. The insecurity of the state is furthered by such autonomous ideas and actions steered for the ego of sustaining power by elites.

Zimbabwe in a bid to empower and leverage the dead industries has to embark on serious connotations. The industrial systems in Bulawayo are not only asleep because the economy is in shackles, no, the water shortage also counts. It is impossible to establish industries in a region where the caring capacity of the town is not pretty when compared to the existing population. If the people cannot get water for drinking, how can the heavy industries operate? Now we have a nightmare walking in the sunshine and the economy sinking at our sight dying a slow death which can be prevented.

The town council has a blame to hold too. Considering the annually generated millions of dollars by the town council of Bulawayo, the council should have staged a strategic plan to leverage water problems that could make the big city invincible now. The council have a capacity to raise sufficient funds of erecting a dam wall which can help alleviate the anguish of thirst in a long run. All this has been hibernated in the minds of the leadership due to centralisation, and a disregard of the importance of devolution. What a drama unrealistic when in the arena of development.

The failure of the governing bodies to provide such pertinent social services leads to uprisings and revolutionary actions by the citizens. More resources can be wasted as the people fight for the good, the resources that could be alternatively used to improve the living conditions. Production is hampered by such inconsistent and perilous moves taken by the angry mobs as they seek answers and solutions.

Considering the situation in Bulawayo, one would wonder how such a big town council fail to employ technical staff which can predict the water levels and practice water shedding timeously instead of implementing it in such a time when the need for water is very high. Water shedding should have been done long back to guarantee people of a life which is admirable. 72 hours is too much for the absence of water in homes and people wither at a rampant level due to the escalating furnaceous temperatures.

This is a concise indication that Zimbabwe needs devolution even when the political landscape is a moving avalanche for those at the top brass. The more the governance system is centralised, the sour the social life for people become. Devolution will enhance a quick decision making based on the town’s needs compared  to centralisation which can be described as thinking for others in a state reigned by greedy individuals and a vampire economy which cannot support all the citizens.

The water crisis in Bulawayo will only end if logical and congruent policies are designed, proper investment should be lured too to leverage the perilous situation. The government of Zimbabwe should consider embarking on infrastructural development in Matabeleland especially the one to do with water and other social services to merge equity and equality in the development of the nation. Thus politics should not shape the development system and policies should be designed to enhance a crosscutting impact on all communities.




  • Abednico Siambombe (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. Department of Politics and Public Management) is a political analyst and social commentator for Khuluma Afrika – a center for analysis, commentary and investigative journalism.