Byo water crisis: A death knell for industry

Dwindling water supplies in Bulawayo will be the death knell for local businesses and could destroy the economy if no radical action is taken, an industrialist has warned.

In a bid to conserve its remaining water supply levels, which currently stand at 31 percent, the Bulawayo City Council has increased its water-shedding hours from 108 hours to 120 hours per week.

This has forced the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) to write to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office to treat the country’s second largest city’s water situation with the urgency it deserves.

In an interview with CITE, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland Chapter president Golden Muoni, said the industry in Bulawayo is at risk, as companies use huge quantities of water to manufacture or kickstart their production.

“As business we have too many problems but importantly water issues are more crucial. We need water as it is life for any industry. We need urgent solutions to provide or bring water to Bulawayo. The residents of Bulawayo need water and so does business,” he pleaded.

Muoni advised the government to intervene as he warned that it was “not guaranteed that Bulawayo will have water by end of May.”

“This poses a potentially greater threat to businesses as there is no substitute for water.”

He noted he was not being alarmist but highlighting that Bulawayo had serious water shortages.

“We need to talk about water, water and water now and see what we can come up with to mitigate against this. Businesses and investors have to think strategically about the risks that will exist when water supplies continue diminishing. This is a challenge to business that coming up with water solutions is strategic,” said the regional ZNCC president.

He also said the drought situation in the country would exacerbate the city’s water crisis, stressing that government had to come up practical financial schemes that took such issues into context.

“When the finance minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) talks of a recovery package for businesses, the way he will structure it is very important. Will more money be poured into the Command Agriculture, since it has raised that it has become a conduit for corruption? Will the Command Agriculture be structured the same or it will be revised because now focus should be on investing in water bodies,” Muoni emphasised.

“We need to invest more into irrigation in order for people to have food otherwise there will be none due to drought. As business, we need to know how the government will control food shortages as there is a shortage of mealie-meal, there is no cooking oil because we have been importing soya.”
The ZNCC regional president lamented that these problems came in the backdrop of the global pandemic, COVID-19 which has brought business to a standstill. The country’s economy was already in trouble without COVID-19. Manufacturing has gone down, the retail sector is barely better with people selling here and there. Foreign currency remains unavailable and our currency is unstable where the value of the bond notes continues running away.

“If we are to open business after the lockdown, the US$ to Bond rate will probably be US$1 is ZWL$60 to ZWL$70 and that has to be arrested. Authorities have to control the currency so that it stabilises but how will they arrest that. the authorities were failing to arrest the rate before, now what are our chances in light of the coronavirus. Business has more problems than you can believe and more are going to come,” he lamented.

Bulawayo faces perennial water challenges since most of the supply dams were built before independence, before the city’s population ballooned.

In a letter to the Office of the President and Cabinet, BPRA Coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu said the water crisis is a critical issue that if not properly addressed might culminate in a calamity.

“The city population has tremendously outgrown the supply capacity of these dams and siltation and the obtaining adverse climatic conditions of this ecological region have also exacerbated the situation,” said Ndlovu.

“Section 77 (a) of the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 entrenches the right to every citizen to safe, clean and potable water and further saddles the state in peremptory language to take reasonable legislative and other measures within the limits of resources available to it to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)