BULAWAYO civic leaders and rights activists have described the late Bulawayo water activist Arnold Payne as a hero for his persistent fight to get the government to act on the proposed Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP).
The water project is aimed at building a pipeline from the mighty Zambezi River to supply water to Bulawayo.
Payne died at Mater Dei Hospital at the age of 76 on Monday night after admission on Friday. He had been in and out of hospital after suffering a stroke about 18 months ago. Bulawayo deputy mayor Gift Banda yesterday said the city had lost a great activist who had the interests of residents at heart.
“We have lost a great activist, an activist who was truly concerned about Bulawayo and had the interests of the people of the city at heart,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that he passed away before his dream came to fruition. It’s a great loss to Bulawayo.”
Bulawayo Residents’ Association chairperson Winos Dube said he was shocked by the death of Payne, adding that the Matabeleland region had lost a true and gallant civic leader.
“As an organisation, we are really saddened by this loss. He was an activist and real civic leader of this region. We feel saddened by his death and we want to express our deepest condolences to his family,” he said.
“A huge gap has been left as Payne really wanted to see the Zambezi River water being accessed by the people of Matabeleland and Bulawayo.
“He was a person who could speak his mind. You could have seen in the media that he said he wanted the project to come into fruition before he died, but unfortunately he died before that.
“We join the family in mourning his loss at this sad time. His voice has been heard; the onus is on us to continue and see that this project comes to fruition.”
Dube’s sentiments were echoed by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (Bpra) organising secretary Ambrose Sibindi who said: “It’s really a great loss and we want to really underline that.”
“You know when Matabeleland and Bulawayo were facing critical a water shortage, he was the pioneer and campaigned for the Zambezi water project,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that we lost him before his dream came true. We hope this dream will come to fruition. As Bpra we send our condolences to the family for this great loss.” Human rights lawyers Abammeli said Payne was an inspirational man who made people aware that water was life.
“Life, both animal and plant, is impossible without water. Without water, men die of dehydration. About 70% of the human body is water,” the lawyers said.
“Of the total surface of the earth, 75% is water and just below the surface of the land in most areas there is a saturated layer known as the water table. Animals and plants have large percentages of water in their make-up and some animals regulate their movements according to the water sources.
“That’s what the great Payne would teach our children. Thank you for inspiring and teaching Zimbabwe that water is life.
“In your passing away we will always remember you and value your contribution to cleanse and quench Zimbabwe of its thirst.”
Payne pushed a wheelbarrow carrying 210lt of water from the Zambezi River to Bulawayo and then Gwanda in 1992 in a symbolic gesture to raise the urgency of the crisis to authorities to speed up implementation of the MZWP.
The family is waiting for the arrival of relatives from abroad before announcing Payne’s burial arrangements.