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Bulawayo Water

Lungelo Ndhlovu, Thomson Reuters Foundation

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Families in the southern Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo are going up to four days without running water as drought dries the dams the city depends on, city council officials said.

The city has since late November imposed 96-hour dry periods for residential water customers, though industrial and business users have continued to receive service, according to the Bulawayo City Council.

An extended drought has reduced supplies of stored water, forcing the city to decommission two of its major supply dams, said Nesisa Mpofu, a spokeswoman for the council.

Shortages of hydropower-produced electricity also have affected the city’s ability to pump water from the dams, she said.

“Out of six dams, Bulawayo now remains with four water sources,” she said.

The four-day water outages - up from three days previously - have spurred widespread local efforts to store more water and to find alternative sources.

Arnold Batirai, a councillor for Nketa, a suburb of Bulawayo, said many residents in his area had access to alternative water sources such as wells or water supply trucks provided by the council.

But he acknowledged that not all borehole wells were still functioning, while shortages of fuel had affected water truck deliveries in some areas.

“Despite these challenges, we do encourage residents to conserve water and report burst pipes or water leakages,” he said.

Many residents now keep buckets or other containers of water in their homes, sometimes filled at their place of work.

“I carry a 25-litre container to work, where I fetch water from the bathroom, mindful of colleagues who may report me to my superiors,” said Siphathisiwe Ndimande, a mother of three who lives in Nketa.

Affluent residents in some suburbs have dug new deep wells in response to dry taps and installed large tanks that store thousands of litres of water.

Other parched residents, such as 71-year-old Mildred Mkandla, have installed water harvesting systems on their homes, to catch what rain falls.

“Residents don’t harvest rainwater but watch it flow away,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“My household is unaffected by the shedding because our main source of water is underground water, while I also harvest rainwater from the roof (and) that’s connected to the taps,” she said.

Mkandla said her household had installed a 46,000-litre (12,000-gallon) water tank to store rainwater, and now does not rely on city water - or pay bills for it.

Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, said several years of drought had created serious problems for Zimbabwe’s water supply.

“We are still recovering from a devastating drought that occurred (in 2018) due to El Nino. Under normal circumstances during this time of the year, the country would have recorded significant amounts of rainfall with impact to our dams,” he said.


Zimbabwe has seen rain in recent weeks - including violent storms that destroyed roofs and washed away bridges - but water reserves overall remain low.

Ndlovu said families had been advised to try to harvest rainwater and to plant early maturing crops, which require a shorter period of rainfall to grow.

“My ministry is looking at how best to assist communities,” he said.

But some Bulawayo residents said the national government had done too little to help the city.

“Government has done nothing to solve Bulawayo’s water crisis,” complained Sinothando Mathe, who lives in Pumula North, a poor western suburb.

Faced with struggling residents, Raji Modi, a Bulawayo South legislator and the country’s deputy minister of industry, in November initiated his own “free water for all programme”.

Water trucks he has hired now deliver water to neighbourhoods without it, drawn from his own borehole wells.

“I have a sustainable water plant and decided to assist residents who go for days without due to water cuts,” he said, noting the cost of the effort was mainly fuel for the trucks.

Modi suggested pumping and storing more groundwater could be one way to help Bulawayo deal with its worsening water shortages.

“We need to invest in modern technology and effectively use underground water. Countries in the Middle East don’t have much water yet don’t have a crisis because they invest in technologies,” he said.

“We need to adopt the same because water is the foundation for industrialisation and development,” he said.

Bulawayo City Council officials said they remains optimistic Bulawayo will not face a “Day Zero” where taps run completely dry despite rationing and restrictions.

Cape Town, in neighbouring South Africa, avoided such a situation in 2018 by making widespread reductions in water use. Many of those restrictions still remain in place, in recognition of long-term climate-driven drying in the region.

For now, Bulaway officials have pinned their hopes on divine help.

“Despite interventions in place, we pray it rains,” said Sikhululekile Moyo, a councillor for Pumula North.

She said a long-term solution would be to bring water to Bulawayo from the Zambezi River, 400 km away - but plans for such a diversion are costly, have been delayed repeatedly for more than a century and are opposed by Zambia.

Reporting by Lungelo Ndhlovu @lauriegoering ; editing by Laurie Goering : Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by the office of Iran's supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

U.S. President Donald Trump is defending the U.S. airstrike that killed one of Iran's most powerful generals, brushing aside threats from Tehran that it will exact a harsh revenge.

In his first comments since defense officials confirmed the U.S. carried out the airstrike near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq early Friday (local time), Trump blamed the Quds Force commander for the deaths of thousands of Americans, and said the strike was long overdue.

"General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more," Trump tweeted Friday.

"Soleimani was both hated and feared," the president added. "He should have been taken out many years ago!"

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN Iran and Soleimani had given Washington little choice.

"He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action, as he described it — that would have put dozens, if not hundreds, of American lives at risk," Pompeo said of the Quds Force commander. "We know it was imminent."

Pentagon officials confirmed the strike on Soleimani in a statement late Thursday (local time), saying the action was carried out on Trump's order.

It further described the strike as a "decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad," and warned, "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."

Iraqi officials have said the strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. They said other top officials may have been killed, as well.

Iran Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for three days of national mourning and has promised a harsh response.

"All Enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war," he said in a statement carried on Iranian television.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif labeled the U.S. strike an "act of terrorism," tweeting it was an "extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation."

How or when Iran may respond to the strike is unknown. U.S. defense and intelligence officials have long warned about Iran's penchant for using asymmetric techniques, like terrorism and cyber attacks, to target the U.S. and Western nations.

But in the hours since images of Qassem Soleimani first started spreading on social media, U.S. officials have been reaching out to allies to prepare for what may come next.

The State Department said Pompeo phoned British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss the "defensive action to eliminate" Soleimani, and thanked them for their "recent statements" recognizing the continuing aggressive threat from Iran and its Quds force. The secretary of state also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Chief of Staff General Bajwa on Friday.

In the days leading up to the strike on Soleimani, the U.S. has brushed off concerns that escalating tensions could lead to war.

"I don't think Iran would want that to happen. It would go very quickly," President Trump told reporters Tuesday.

Still, defense officials have been preparing for new attacks.

The U.S. has already deployed 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait to help bolster the defense of U.S. bases and personnel in the region. Defense officials said Thursday more troops would be sent as needed.

VOA's VOA Persian Service and White House Correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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