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Periodical article Periodical article
Title:Early Struggles over Water: From Private to Public Water Utility in the City of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 1894-1924
Author:Musemwa, MuchapararaISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
Subjects:water management
water supply
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070802456813
Abstract:The contemporary social and political struggles between the city of Bulawayo and the Zimbabwean state over the control of water are reminiscent of earlier contestations during the first three decades after Bulawayo's establishment in 1894. During that period, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) was locked in conflict with the Bulawayo Waterworks Company (BWC), a private concern, which won rights from the British South Africa Company (BSAC) to supply water to the fledgling colonial city in 1895. Supported by the city's white ratepayers, the Bulawayo municipality was successful in taking over the city's water supply in 1924. This article examines the conflict between the BWC and the BCC. It emphasises that the BCC's municipal power over Bulawayo was predicated upon water control, among other things. The article argues that, with the current postcolonial state's attempts to seize the role of water supply from the BCC, and hand it over to ZINWA - a parastatal created in the wake of the 1998 Water Act - the control of water in Bulawayo has come full circle. It further contends that the intensity of the recent (2007) opposition to ZINWA's overtures in Bulawayo has its antecedents in the rejection of the BWC by the municipality in the formative years of Bulawayo. When the BCC and the Bulawayo residents invoked the history of the city's ownership and infrastructural development of its water resources a century later, they were referring to the days when the municipality of Bulawayo took over water provision from the BWC. This sense of ownership was rooted in the work of their forefathers who had built and invested in a formidable reticulation structure. This conflict exemplifies the centrality of water to municipal power in both the colonial and postcolonial periods.