A DEADLY WATER CRISIS IN BULAWAYO !          - 25/9/2007      <--Prev : Next-->


I do not think anyone can really understand the seriousness of Bulawayo's water problems, until they see for themselves one of the queues at the water bowsers, like the one in Emakandeni on Saturday.

We drove past an Ingwebu Bowser at 2 p.m. The queue snaked across the bare sandy soccer field, like a lazy boa constrictor. Women, men and children were walking towards the field from every which way. Hundreds of them, thousands of them. Each carrying as large a bucket as one could possibly carry.

Ingwebu Breweries was once a popular Bulawayo City Council beer outlet. The Council boasted a number of Beer Tankers which would deliver copious quantities of the popular thick rich potent liquid to beer halls across the city.

Now the tankers carry something much more precious, - water - destined for the City's high density suburbs, where there is no water at all, for days on end.

Beer sales have come to an end, largely because the people can no longer afford this luxury but mainly because the City's five supply dams have all but dried up, and without the bowser water deliveries, people would simply die of thirst.

Bulawayo has a population of one and a half million people. It is not a rural village, it is a large sophisticated industrial, city with sophisticated water needs.

It is possibly a blessing that the City's industry and economy is virtually at a standstill since the price freeze two months ago, as there is not enough water to quench the thirst of the people, let alone quench any sort of heavy industrial thirst.

Water supplies have dried up to twice a week in the eastern suburbs, to almost a trickle in other suburbs like Tshabalala where bore-holes have been drilled by the European Union, and pumps have been installed. However water supplies are just non existent in suburbs like Emakandeni, Nketa, and Nkulumane.

On our way back past the Ingwebu Bowser some three hours later, we saw the most incredible sight. The bowser had gone for re-filling, but there snaking across the dusty playing field, like a giant anaconda, was a bucket snake. A solemn queue of buckets, placed neatly in line, like tiny round colourful cars in a fuel queue.

There must be honour amongst buckets as few of them were manned, over a kilometre of blue, yellow, red and green buckets, waiting patiently, neatly, thirstily for the Ingwebu Bowser.

The line at the Tshabalala pumps were as long if not longer. Swarms of children would happily volunteer to man the pumps ....... up down up down, water gushing into buckets, containers, drums and pots. The line of women swaying with that elegant balancing gait, to and from the pumps was endless, disappearing into the distance, as the pumps are few and far between.....

I wondered sadly, as I drove back to my haven in the Eastern Suburbs, where our borehole is prolific if unpalatable, if the water from the bowsers tasted of beer ?

I also wondered how these folk were managing to flush their toilets..... . The majority of the people of the City of Bulawayo live in the western areas where there is no water at all coming out of the taps, and none at all to flush down the sewers ......

Twenty litres per family per day, for drinking, bathing, washing, and cooking is surely hardly enough to maintain even the slightest semblance of hygiene.

Our life expectancy has dropped sharply since "Independence" from 65 to 39 years !!

Can you imagine the awful, terrible havoc this lack of water is going to cause amongst a people already weakened by HIV AIDS, lack of proper nutrition, and right now. lack of food of any sort at all, since the government crackdown on prices.?