Byo residents demand action on water crisis within a week

Bulawayo residents have set a one-week deadline for the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to address the recurring water crisis in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, as the country grapples with a severe cholera outbreak.

The residents, represented by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), engaged the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to request that BCC address the perennial water crisis and the government also declares a state of disaster and Bulawayo as a water shortage area.

ZLHR dispatched its lawyers Prisca Dube and Jabulani Mhlanga to deliver a letter to BCC protesting against poor service delivery, as the local authority is implementing water rationing measures.

Residents said the water rationing measures are “a denial of their right to safe, clean, and potable water as enshrined in section 77(a) of the Constitution,” ZLHR said in a statement.

“In the letter, the residents complained that water rationing was at its worst in Bulawayo, with some suburbs experiencing prolonged water rationing for over three weeks.”

ZLHR said the residents stated in the letter that due to the water crisis, key critical public institutions such as medical facilities and institutions of learning without alternative water sources such as boreholes were requesting residents and students to bring water from their homes to use.

“This had a negative impact on service delivery,” said the human rights organisation.

“The residents proposed that the situation facing the City of Bulawayo necessitates that it be declared as a water shortage area by Anxious Masuka, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, in terms of Section 61 of the Water Act.”

In addition, ZLHR noted that residents said the perennial water crisis in Bulawayo, which is persisting at a time when the country is grappling with a devastating cholera outbreak, warrants that a state of disaster should be declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in terms of Section 27 of the Civil Protection Act.

“The declaration, the residents said, would allow for the necessary relief to be afforded to alleviate the local authority’s current water crisis and hopefully pave the way for a long-term solution,” ZLHR said.

“The residents demanded to be furnished within seven days with information on the steps and measures that the City of Bulawayo and the relevant stakeholders, which include the government, were taking to address and arrest the current and perennial water crisis in the country’s second-largest city.”

According to BCC Director of Engineering Services, Engineer Skhumbuzo Ncube, the current water shedding might be the worst since independence, saying that at the time of the year, the dams are at 43 percent while in previous years they were usually around 65 to 70 percent full.

“We have been in this situation since 2018; the water situation has been worsening since 2018, 2019 till date. Our dams have never been full since 2018; actually, 2024-2025 might be the worst drought since independence. 1982 was even better than this year in 2024,” said the engineer at a recent stakeholder consultative meeting to unpack the local authority’s service delivery blueprint.

Despite this gloomy situation, Bulawayo Mayor David Coltart urged residents not to panic, claiming the local authority is making strategies to guide them through the dry season.

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