When the 18000 litres water tanker rolled into Sizinda Flats in Bulawayo on Saturday the 3rd of October 2020, to many of the over 500 assembled residents it could have been seen as one of the many generous and charitable activities bringing water to the affected community. However, to us at Bulawayo Water Action (BUWA) and Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) it was more than that:
Firstly, when young children from Sizinda flats saw the water bowser, they began singing, jumping and chanting “bowser, bowser, bowser” (we couldn’t picture those memorable moments for ethical reasons). The water bowser was therefore an inspiration of hope to the Sizinda and Bulawayo community at large. Hope for a better life, hope for a better Bulawayo and hope for human rights, freedoms as well as solidarity and unity of people.
Secondly, the water bowser provided the residents with a much needed commodity – water. This is a section of the community which has not been receiving water for the past 4 months. Even when water the City water is restored to the general suburb, this section due to gravity, does not get the precious liquid. About 224 households received 120 litres of water each benefiting over 1 568 individuals. According to international law and the Zimbabwean Constitution, clean and safe water is a basic and fundamental human right.
Thirdly, the water bowser created an opportunity to provide civic education and awareness raising on water rights and responsible citizenry. The Sizinda community has been damaging local authority water mains in order to access water. BUWA discouraged the practice and encouraged the residents to be responsible. Over 500 residents inclusive of men, women, people with disabilities, elderly and youths had assembled. This large gathering would have ordinarily not be accomplished if a conventional community meeting was arranged.
Fourthly, the residents received information and participation in nonviolent water activism and social accountability. The residents did not only receive booklets on water activism and social accountability guide developed by MIHR and BUWA but also practiced with low risk nonviolent actions when they created a message board to the local authority on water.
Finally, because water waters all rights we saw the dignity of people being uplifted through the joy they exhibited by receiving the water. The elderly and people with disabilities were prioritized in getting water due to the peculiar vulnerabilities and challenges they face to go across the railway line to where alternative water is found.
In conclusion, we were saddened because half of the affected community did not receive the full joy of the bowser of human rights and freedoms. We pledged to return and this time prioritize those who did not get. With your partnership and generous donations, we will not only fulfil this pledge to reduce water poverty in Bulawayo but also water other human rights and freedoms in the City. There are many sections of Bulawayo community who are in high lying areas and do not get water even when the City Council’s water restoration schedule is done.