CIOs, Soldiers Deployed To Guard Boreholes
29 February 2024
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By Farai D Hove | Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – In a significant move to combat the escalating water crisis in Bulawayo, the Zimbabwean government has taken proactive steps by repairing 35 out of 60 boreholes at the Nyamandlovu Aquifer. Furthermore, an ambitious plan to drill an additional 83 boreholes within the city has been unveiled, signaling an emergency response to a dire situation. These repaired boreholes have already started pumping 12 megalitres of water per day into the city, with hopes to increase this figure to at least 16 megalitres after the remaining boreholes are repaired.

Engineer Annatoria Chinyama, chair of the Bulawayo water crisis technical committee, highlighted the government’s dedication to resolving the crisis, emphasizing the completion of borehole repairs within the next 100 days. This decision comes after a mandate extension by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, Dr. Anxious Masuka, in response to the technical challenges and theft that have hampered progress.

The deployment of State Security and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) agents to guard the boreholes marks a stark contrast to the historical management of water resources in the region. Reflecting on the colonial era from 1896 to 1980, when Rhodesia boasted an adequate supply of water from treated sources without the need for security measures, the current situation underscores the severe degradation of Zimbabwe’s water infrastructure over the years.

Dr. Masuka, speaking at a media briefing, underscored the government’s commitment to safeguarding the boreholes from vandalism, a challenge that has become all too common in recent times. “The activation of the state security apparatus is a necessary measure to ensure that our efforts in solving the Bulawayo water crisis are not in vain,” said Dr. Masuka.

The decision to secure water sources with state security agents is a telling reflection of the gravity of Zimbabwe’s water crisis. It points to the broader issues of infrastructure decay, resource mismanagement, and the adverse effects of climate change. In contrast, the colonial era, despite its myriad of issues, managed to maintain a relatively stable and secure water supply system without such drastic measures.

As Bulawayo grapples with a catastrophic water shortage, leading to a 120-hour water shedding schedule and residents turning to unclean sources, the government’s measures highlight a desperate attempt to mitigate a crisis that threatens the health and well-being of its citizens. The initiative to enhance borehole drilling and protect existing water sources is a step in the right direction, albeit a reflection of how much has changed since the days when water security did not necessitate the involvement of state security forces.

This approach raises questions about the long-term sustainability and governance of water resources in Zimbabwe. While securing boreholes may address immediate concerns, experts argue that comprehensive policy reforms, investment in water infrastructure, and community engagement are essential to ensure a reliable water supply for future generations.

As Zimbabwe looks to navigate its way out of this crisis, the comparison to its historical management of water resources serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges that lie ahead in restoring a basic and essential service to its citizens.