BULAWAYO City Council last Friday made two important announcements that should have come as a huge relief to city residents.
Mayor Martin Moyo unveiled various incentives for companies operating in the city as a way of stimulating investment.
The council, despite its documented financial problems, is offering a once-off discount of 50% to company accounts balances as at December 31, 2013 if they settle their bills before June 30.
Council has also reduced annual charges for business licences by as much as 40% to encourage investment in the city.
Moyo announced that the local authority would reduce water rationing from 48 hours to 24 hours per week from today.
This followed the improvement in water inflows into the city’s supply dams since the beginning of the rainy season around mid-November.
The mayor said as of January 8, the six supply dams were holding a combined percentage total of 40,4% of water.
Council’s decision to ease water rationing would certainly be received well by residents who have endured years of stringent water rationing.
However, it is by no means an indication that Bulawayo’s water shortages are about to ease. According to the statistics released by the local authority on Friday, three of the six dams are less than 30% full.
Inyankuni (8%), Lower Ncema (26,1%), Umzingwane (21,1%) and Upper Ncema (9,7%) were all decommissioned last year after they ran dry. The possibility of them drying up again this year is still very high unless the heavy rains the region has been receiving persist until the end of the season around April.
Insiza Mayfair Dam (54,8 %) and Mtshabezi Dam (94%) hold a significant amount of water that can keep the city going for some time, but the infrastructure doesn’t allow for large-scale abstraction of water.
What this means is that Bulawayo residents have to continue using water sparingly. The city is still in crisis mode until a more permanent solution to the water shortages could be realised in the form of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project.
Bulawayo City Council should be applauded for managing the scarce water resources well.
The city fathers must, however, not rest on their laurels thinking that the problem of water has been solved by nature, through the favourable rainfall.