On Monday police in Bulawayo arrested 79 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) for staging a peaceful demonstration against the water crisis in the city.
All the activists were released after police realized the holding cells at police stations were without running water, a scenario that could have made the situation even worse.
Bulawayo, with an estimated population of 1.5 million residents, has been facing an acute water shortage that has forced city fathers to adopt a 72-hour water shedding schedule. Residents have accused council officials of going beyond the three days of water shedding.
During their demonstration WOZA activists targeted Tower Block, where most city council staff work, as an attempt to persuade them to stop the water disconnections and to also pressure them to stick to the water load shedding timetables.
Our correspondent Lionel Saungweme told us the activists carried placards with messages that were critical of council in the way they’ve dealt with the water crisis. WOZA said many of them have not had water for weeks, and whenever it is available it is dirty and undrinkable.
Residents fear another cholera outbreak is imminent if the water supply situation does not improve soon. Close to 100 companies have shut down in Bulawayo since 2010, creating another 20,000 unemployed people. Many of the closures have been due to the lack of water.
The few companies that are operating have downsized operations, while mulling over their option in relocating to other cities, citing the crippling water shortages. Some suburbs have gone for weeks without water after the local authority introduced a tight water rationing regime following the decommissioning of dams.
Last month Mayor Patrick Thaba-Moyo told journalists that as a result of the worsening situation, there were plans to start importing water from other towns.
‘What I can tell you is that the water situation in this city is now getting worse as our remaining three supply dams are getting dry. If we don’t receive rains in the next coming month there will be disaster in this city,’ Moyo warned.