Bulawayo’s perennial water problems are a public secret but the city has remained a largely free zone from water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Harare is currently fighting to control a worsening cholera outbreak that has claimed 25 lives and infected nearly 3 700. The city has been battling typhoid throughout the years.
Zimbabwe’s capital city, which is home to 1,6 million people, also suffered a cholera outbreak 2008-09 which spread to other parts of the country, killing 4 000 and infecting tens of thousands mainly in Harare.
Bulawayo, which has an estimated 700 000 strong population, has largely remained free of both cholera and typhoid, with Gweru, a relatively less populated city, having recently experienced a typhoid outbreak.
All the three authorities are run by the opposition MDC.
NewZimbabwe.com took time to find out why Harare and Bulawayo were different, with politicians and activists attributing the situation to a number of reasons, among them the running of the two major cities and demographics.
Bulawayo councillor for Ward 28 in Cowdray Park, Happison Ncube attributed the situation to what he claimed was the city’s culture of cleanliness as compared to Harare.
“The people of Bulawayo are very clean and their council has been the best run MDC since the turn of the millennium.
“You will also understand that population demographics indicate that Harare has a larger population and is too congested,” said Ncube who admitted Harare needed drastic decongestion.
His Cowdray Park area has been battling serious water problems and has portions which remain without running water or sewer.
The stands were parcelled out by government under its Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle housing initiative.
The Bulawayo municipality constantly provides clean water to the area using bowsers.
Harare Ward 16 councillor Denford Ngadziore admits the city was different from Bulawayo in handling its water affairs as he puts blame on the Zanu PF led central government for failing to build Kunzvi Dam as recommended by the African Development Bank when alarm bells of a pending water crisis began to ring as early as the 1990s.
“Lake Chivero cannot service the over 3 million people now in Harare; it is impossible,” said the MDC official.
“Blame is squarely on government as they are the ones who failed to build Kunzvi Dam.
“That is the reason why we are experiencing these water shortages. Bulawayo has little of these problems.”
Harare based water rights activist, Hardlife Mudzingwa blames Harare council authorities for their tendency to abruptly cut water supplies to defaulting rate payers.
He commended Bulawayo for establishing alternative sources of revenue collection, among them its Ingwebu Breweries to bridge the revenue gap created by non-paying residents.
Political analyst and activist Pride Mkono attributes the problem to continued political interference on Harare than Bulawayo with the capital city’s mayors and councillors often dismissed at a passing whim by Zanu PF Local Government Ministers.
“Two of Harare City Council’s mayors were fired by Zanu PF ministers,” he said.
“There is less interference by central government in the operations of the Bulawayo council making it easier for them to service their population which is almost half of Harare.
“There is a need for government to let go of the Harare council and maintain an overseer role rather than a hands-on such as what was the case during Ignatius Chombo and Saviour Kasukuwere’s times at the Ministry of Local Government.”
Mkono feels Harare has also been deliberately sabotaged by government through declining requests by Town House to acquire loans to improve service.
MDC activist Descent Bajila feels Bulawayo was doing better in terms of managing its hygiene than Harare.
“There is litter everywhere in Harare. Residents must be taught to place litter in bins as is the case in Bulawayo.
“The Harare City Council can also copy Bulawayo’s commendable culture of providing clean water which is suitable for human consumption,” said Bajila.
Bulawayo has been battling water problems since time immemorial and has earmarked the long awaited Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project to be the most permanent resolution to the recurrent crisis.
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