Bulawayo councillors have demanded that the local authority ends its water rationing programme which has seen residents going up to 72 hours without water each week.
A diarrhoea outbreak in Tshabalala suburb left more than a hundred residents requiring hospital treatment over the last two weeks.
During a full council meeting last Wednesday, councillors heard from mayor Solomon Mguni who said 2021 had been blighted by service delivery challenges.
The councillors debated a report by the Future Water Supplies and Water Action Committee which states that the city has enough water but lacks pumping capacity.
“Recently, ZESA issued a statement denying that power outages were causing water shortages, and on the other hand the BCC says power interruptions by ZESA are compromising pumping. We need to offer clarity to the residents of Bulawayo and come clean on what’s happening with regards to the water situation,” ward six councillor Shadreck Sibanda said.
“We’re in December and the dams are full with rains promising, but we’re still subjecting residents to a 72-hour water rationing regime. Is there light at the end of the tunnel on when the water shedding will be lifted?”
Deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube said: “The problem we have is that ZESA has washed its hands off on the water problem and it’s now difficult to know who is telling the truth between us and them, but people know we’re the ones failing to give them water.
“How is it possible that we rely so much on ZESA? It’s like we’re happy to close the taps for the residents. Last year we had a problem of water shortages but God gave us the rains and now we’re failing to pump it. Why can’t we come up with innovative ways to pump the water like solar energy? We need to be very serious about the water issue as city fathers.”
Ncube said the planned integration of surrounding towns would only make the problem worse for the city.
“We’ll spend months without water,” he warned. “We have had problems of people dying due to suspected contaminated water although it has not been confirmed. This problem is now a security risk and people will attack us in the streets.”
Ward 16 representative Mildred Ncube said the water crisis was particularly being acutely felt at funerals, as she urged the council to provide water bowsers at gatherings.
Rodney Jele of ward 20 threatened to sponsor a motion for the dissolution of the water committee.
“My problem is that the committee is not doing its job and we must set up a motion to dissolve it because they cannot come up with alternative ways of pumping water,” Jele said. “We must come up with alternative power methods to pump water so that we don’t suffer this. We’re paying for the water which is a human right and it’s sad that they’re not giving us the water.”
Responding to the councillors, committee chairperson Sikhululekile Moyo of ward 17 said in there was nothing her committee could do in the absence of power.
“There’s nothing the committee can do to pump water if there’s no electricity. ZESA had a fault with one of their transformers in Umzingwane so at the moment they’re using one transformer. The problem is bigger than council,” she said.
“People must know the truth which is causing the current water problem. Power outages still continue. The solar plant requires a lot of money which we don’t have. Let’s not only complain but also bring solutions.”
Speaking on the outbreak of diarrhoea in Tshabalala, Jele accused the water committee of sleeping on duty. He said the council must be the first to communicate with residents, instead of waiting for issues to get out of hand before reacting.
“We must be proactive and explain to people what’s happening. You make us liars by delaying to speak on issues that will be happening,” he charged.
He was supported by deputy mayor Ncube who said: “We should avoid to be always apologising to residents all the time. People died in Luveve last year during water rationing and we didn’t know what was happening.
“We have introduced the water rationing again and we’re hearing diarrhoea outbreak in Sizinda and Tshabalala. We need to look at this issue. We didn’t appoint our public relations manager to be an apologising officer. We should not tolerate the continuous diarrhoea outbreaks.”
Mayor Mguni insisted that the council’s dams are not full, with Umzingwane set to be decommissioned on December 15. He said it could be several months before the water rationing is discontinued. ZimLive