By the end of the day, 100 Bulawayo residents from different suburbs had actively participated in the Week 1 of the #MondayWaterAction online nonviolent protest for the right to water from the Covid19 safety of their homes.

Concerns have been raised worldwide that some autocratic governments are using Covid19 lockdown measures to curtail and close civic space and muzzle the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms by citizens. Equally some critics has labelled as highly irresponsible calls by social movements, for nonviolent public action to demand service delivery and respect for human rights and freedoms.

On Monday 25 January 2021, faced high Covid19 cases and deaths in Zimbabwe averaging over 400 and 50 respectively; Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights’ water rights social movement Bulawayo Water Action (BUWA) rose to the challenge launching 9 weeks of water nonviolent activism. The first week of the 9 weeks #MondayWaterAction campaign, saw 100 Bulawayo residents staging water rights protests online in the safety of their homes to prevent Covid19 infection.

The first week campaign, run under the theme “I/We #StandUp4WaterRights” aimed at raising awareness to citizens about the 9 weeks water activism campaign and reminding the water authorities in the country that the residents are ready to nonviolently defend their water rights. The action saw residents taking selfies of the feet next to empty water buckets. The pictures were taken individually or in family groups. The significance of the feet is the residents’ determination to stand up and defend any violation of water rights – which was symbolized by an empty water bucket.

Having collected the pictures which were mainly shared via whatsapp, BUWA technical team then would applaud them to Twitter and Facebook tagging the relevant authorities. Some of them are used in the Rights Action Newsletter that will also be shared online with the authorities.

The 9 weeks of #MondayWaterAction activism runs from the 25th of January 2021 to the 22nd of January 2021 – which is World Water Day and will happen every Monday whereby a different action will be staged online.

As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) we believe that whilst lockdown is an undesirable necessity to curb the spread of the Covid19 pandemic, it should not lock us out to express our rights and to defend them. The BUWA social movement is therefore an MIHR initiative that nonviolently campaigns for “clean, safe and affordable water 24/7” in Bulawayo.

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