Executive Summary: In the year 2020, the City of Bulawayo faced an acute water shortage problem where the City went for an official 144 hours without household tap water while some suburbs endured a gruesome continuous 4 months without household tap water. Most of the residents relied on borehole water as the alternative water source for potable water needs. This happened at a time when the country and the world was grappling with the deadly Covid19 pandemic which demands, among other protection measures constant washing of hands with clean running water and good hygienic practices. Despite this dreadful context, the Bulawayo City Council only managed to test a paltry 6.57% of the boreholes for water quality, down from 50.28% in the previous year 2019. In the 2019 test, 18.75% of the tested boreholes had tested coliform positive and 2.27% had tested fecal positive. Of the 23 boreholes that were tested in the year 2020, 17.39% tested coliform positive and only 1 tested fecal positive.
The inability of the local authority to test enough boreholes in 2019 and 2020 as well as failure to test them in the stipulated frequencies per year, is detrimental to the enjoyment of human rights by Bulawayo residents and especially the right to clean, safe and potable water; right to health and subsequently the right to life.
In this regard, it is both erroneous and misinforming for the Bulawayo City Council to make an authoritative policy pronouncement that “the quality of water in most boreholes was good” as there is no enough current and valid evidence to warrant and qualify such a statement.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) therefore recommends that the Bulawayo City Council refrains from using such an unsubstantiated statement in its policy reports (Full Council reports). We further recommend that the local authority and the relevant Ministry take borehole water testing as a serious human rights issue especially during water shortage times. The organization further recommends the amendment of both the local authority and the national water policies.