100 YEARS OF A PIPE DREAMMATABELELAND ZAMBEZI WATER PROJECT

BY ANGLISTONE T SIBANDA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR- SHALOM PROJECT, THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NGOS (NANGO), WESTERN REGION BOARD SECRETARY AND LECTURER- DEVELOPMENT STUDIES (CENTER FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES) EMAIL: thembanisibanda@yahoo.com Mobile: +263775183243

BACKGROUND: The Matabeleland water project idea turns 100 years this year, 2012 and Civil Society organization in Matabeleland have found it fit to commemorate the 100years of an idea that is viewed as a panacea to perennial water problems faced by the communities in the region. Matabeleland lies in climatic region 4 and 5 that receive little annual rainfall and is susceptible to droughts that continue to have a huge impact on lives and livelihoods in the region. In 2011 Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo which used to be the country’s industrial hub saw the closure of at least 87 major companies that left an estimated 20 000 plus people jobless within the broader national context of a political crises that have had a huge impact on the economy resulting in an unemployment rate that is estimated to be as high as 80%. One of major causes for the de industrialization of Bulawayo has been the lack of viability problems and Bulawayo’s water scarcity has been partly highlighted and one of the causes for lack of viability as the city fails to attract more investors. Matabeleland water project has been an idea that was first mooted in 1912; the same year the ANC was formed in Bloemfontein, South Africa has remained a pipe dream to date with successive governments failing to take sufficient action that would see the project take off. The project’s failure to take off has been attributed mainly to lack of political will by successive governments due to historical issues and attitudes one of them being that of the successive governments’ legitimacy challenges in Matabeleland hence the move to “discipline the dissident city”1.

1 Dissiplining a dissident City- Muchaparara Musemwa-Dept of History University of South Africa-paper.

While the population of Bulawayo has continued to grow, the Zimbabwe government whose responsibility it is to provide water to its citizens has failed to come up with interventions. The last supply dam for Bulawayo was built in 1975, back then the government strategy was to construct a dam for the city in every 10 years but since independence no dam was built for Bulawayo and the Mtshabezi dam was initially built to supply Matabeleland South’ Gwanda town. Within the broader national context, the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project saves as sign of the government’s failure to address development issues as well the challenges within the legislative framework that governs water and sewer reticulation in Zimbabwe. The Water Act 1998 and the ZINWA Act seen then as a positive move towards redressing the imbalances of the past by scrapping water rights and replacing them with renewable water permits, while the ZINWA act created a Water management body known as ZINWA. This institution was tasked the massive role of regulating water development as well as being the sole provider of bulk raw water to local authorities in the country. Faced with capacity challenges within its structures and political meddling, ZINWA has dismally failed to deliver raw water to local authorities and the effects of this has been the massive loss of lives in Harare and other cities in 2008. The Cholera outbreak in Harare, a city that is surrounded by massive water sources, yet mismanagement and politicking has seen some areas going for years without running water. The Bulawayo water supply dams’ current state has been reported to be warranting stern water rationing measures while a short term intervention of pumping water from Mtshabezi dam is still to materialize. Even if the Mtshabezi pipeline materializes, experts have warned that the project would not meet the water demands of Bulawayo and that once the dam is depleted it would not be able to fill up due to problems with the catchment area.

The only lasting hope for the people of Matabeleland is the Zambezi water project that has also been at the centre of political squabbles between the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust and the current minister water development with the later changing its name to National Matabeleland water project anticipating government support for project but still two years have gone without any meaningful commitment to the project by the Inclusive government. The major problem with the project as highlighted earlier has been the governance system that is based on the ‘centre- periphery relations and the historical factors attributable to the nature of the post-colonial state and the nationalistic ideology that saw tribalism as one of the enemies of building nationhood hence the trend to target, marginalize and even attempt to annihilate other tribes that were suspected to be against the state. The continued neglect of Matabeleland’s water issue has been described by some analysis as a strategy of dealing with political dissent 2.Since the region has since 1980 been viewed as against ZANU PF and “must be punished for failing to vote wisely”3. The move to enact new water policies in 1998 created an “artificial and cosmetic” community involvement through the setting up of the Catchment Committees that do not have much power and are mere agents of the minister and have also faced capacity problems did not solve anything but has served to entrench the problems of Matabalelend as ZINWA has for the past 12 years failed to construct a single dam for Bulawayo and has also failed to manage the Nyamandlovu aquifer. Instead the aquifer equipment was allegedly looted to other areas of the country and by 2006 water crisis in Bulawayo only 3 out of the 77 boreholes said to have been working.

PROBLEMS WITH THE WATER ACT 1998 The water act 1998 apart from taking away water rights and leaving water in the hands of the state which seemingly is a noble move, we must understand the nature of the post-independence state that it is a state that is marred with mistrust and the idea of “one nation, one party, one leader’’ is still and ideology and the people of Matabeleland distrust anything that involves that state as the key player. The creation of a monopoly by the ZINWA act closed out any potential investor in water development in Zimbabwe hence the immediate withdrawal of donors immediately after the enactment of the two laws. This has had an impact in ensuring that Local Authorities, NGOs and any other interested parties find it difficult to invest in Water infrastructural development, the few organizations that have done so have had to go under serious scrutiny in regards to their interests during the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the local authority. This cumbersome process tends to scare away some potential investors in Water Development. The two policies have not been operationalized by a clear and well known inclusive process of formulating a National Water Development Strategy (at least to the knowledge of the writer after a lot of research).The lack of a clear National Water Development strategy has result in confusion and lack of direction to guide the budgetary processes. The two policies suffer from the common problem of Zimbabwean laws, that of the tendency of creating super-ministers who have the ultimate say. The two policies do not draw clear inter- agency operational linkages, creating operational challenges between other players like DDF.

POLITICIZATION OF WATER As Mucha Musemwa notes in his paper “The politics of water in PostColonial Zimbabwe 2008”The main problem with Water provision in Zimbabwe is politics. In His paper Musemwa narrates how the shift of power base in and the control of local authorities by the MDC in Harare and Bulawayo has been largely viewed by the ZANU PF minister of Local government as the slipping away of political power hence the stance to ensure that the MDC controlled council fail to provide water to their citizens. The outbreak of Cholera that Killed at least 2000 people I Harare in 2008 and the recent Typhoid outbreak have been a result of the water politics in Zimbabwe where Central Government has been meddling in the running of councils and the failure by ZINWA to provide relevant infrastructure resulting in high density areas like Mabvuku-Tafara going for nearly a decade without running water triggering the health crisis. The situation in Bulawayo can be generally viewed as the continuation of Gukurahundi (the 1980-1987 genocide) as the city has never been of the Government of Zimbabwe’s development agenda and one may easily state that it has always been on the Dare reChimurenga’s underdevelopment agenda. RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. A recognition by government that water is a basic human right 2. De-politization of water
3. A review of the Water Act to reduce powers of the minister when it

comes to selection of Catchment Councils and the democratization of the process.

4. The liberalization of water infrastructural development to allow

private and community players through the reduction of ZINWA’s role to that of a Water Regulating Authority to issue Water Resources Development licences 5. The declaration of Matabeleland as a Water problem area

Bibliography:
THE POLITICS OF WATER IN POST-COLONIAL ZIMBABWE (1980-2007) BY Muchaparara Musemwa-Department of History, University of Witwatersrand-Seminar paper to be presented at the African Studies Centre, University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 19th June 2008. Towards Users Driving Water Resources Development in Zimbabwe: The Role of Catchment Councils (version 2.1) Michiel Verweij (M.Sc.) and Jan-Willem F. Knegt (M.Sc.)1 South African Multi-Stakeholder Initiative in Formulating Policy on Dams and Development LIANE GREEFF, Programme Manager, Water Justice Africa, Environmental Monitoring Group, PO Box 13378, Mowbray, 7705, South Africa. Tel.: 27 21 448 2881; fax: 27 21 448 2922; e-mail: liane@kingsley.co.za; website: www.emg.org.za.

GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE: WATER ACT Acts 31/1998, 22/2001, 13/2002, 14/2002. WATER SECTOR REFORMS IN ZIMBABWE:THE IMPORTANCE OF POLICY ANDN INSTITUTIONAL COORDINATION ON IMPLEMENTATION H. Makurira (University of Zimbabwe, Civil Engineering Department, Harare, Zimbabwe) M. Mugumo (Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Harare, Zimbabwe)

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