Eric Bloch Column

Cinderella needs our help

By Eric Bloch

EVER since Independence, the relationship between the government and Bulawayo has been, and continues to be, reminiscent of the pantomime, Cinderella, save that that pantomime has

episodes of joy and happiness, which has rarely been the case with the government and its never-ending, despicable disregard for Bulawayo and its people.


In this real life pantomime, which is not festive and joyful, those in government are blatantly the Ugly Sisters, whilst Bulawayo is the oppressed Cinderella.


The Ugly Sisters do naught but afflict the City of Bulawayo and its people, whilst displaying a façade of concern and a reality of contempt and disregard.


In the early years of Independence, governmental spending on development in Matabeleland in general and in Bulawayo in particular, represented less than 1% of all state spending on infrastructural creation and rehabilitation, resource development and meeting the needs of the people.


And that was notwithstanding that the Matabeleland people represented at least 25% of the population, and that Bulawayo was Zimbabwe’s second largest city.


Not only did the Ugly Sisters give next to nothing to Cinderella, but the mid-1980s were characterised by brutal oppression and repression by government, vigorously aided and abetted by the nefarious Fifth Brigade.


Those evil acts did not only grievously afflict thousands of innocent people, but also severely retarded economic development and investment in the Matabeleland provinces and the City of Bulawayo.


After the Unity Accord of 1987, the government did give marginally greater attention to the needs as endlessly imposed upon Cinderella, but disproportionately inequitably as against its focus upon other cities, towns, and provinces.


In the main, the Ugly Sisters feigned caring and concern as precursors to general and presidential elections, but as soon as the elections were over, resumed their contempt, oppression and lack of support for poor Cinderella.


Thus, by way of example, despite hijacking progressive private sector endeavours to bring about fruition of the Zambezi Water Project, which has been contemplated for over 80 years, government has steadfastly failed to provide any realistic funding to transform the project from a concept into a reality.


It obdurately ignored the desperate needs of the city for reliable water supplies and as greatly disregarded the immense economic benefits that would accrue to Bulawayo, to all Matabeleland, and to Zimbabwe as a whole.


Its utter disdain and dislike for them fuelled and motivated its indifference and neglect for Cinderella and her provincial relatives.


Allied to its prolonged lip-service to the Zambezi Water Project, unmatched by action, the Ugly Sisters steadfastly ignored Cinderella’s pleas for recognition of intensifying unsuitability and inadequacy of Cinderella’s traditional water catchment area, being to the east and southeast.


Thus, despite irrefutable justifications that water catchment resources needed to be established north of Bulawayo, the Ugly Sisters embarked upon the ill-considered, undesirable development of the Mtshabezi Dam, very distant from the city, and 14 years later has still failed adequately to fund a pipeline to convey water to Bulawayo.


It was at Cinderella’s initiative that, when confronted with pronounced water crises, more than a decade ago, substantive development was effected at the Nyamandhlovu Aquifer, but subsequently the Ugly Sisters, through their handmaiden the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) allowed much of the infrastructure there to be vandalised, stolen, or to fall into disrepair.


When, notwithstanding Zinwa’s culpability, Cinderella accessed funding from her very meagre resources, for rehabilitation of some of that infrastructure, the handmaiden of the Ugly Sisters had no qualms at diverting much of those funds to rehabilitate infrastructure serving farmers and others, and not that which would give Cinderella the life-sustaining water that she so desperately needs.


In like manner, it is now more than three years since Bulawayo’s airport building was closed, and air carriers and their passengers obliged to “make-do” with an allegedly “temporary” converted hanger as terminal, wherein passengers and airport personnel alike freeze in winter, and suffer intense heat in summer, and which is grievously lacking in 21st century air terminal facilities.


The Civil Aviation Authority recurrently reassures of imminent completion, but there is no evidence that that will be so.


Despite the fact that their handmaiden, Zinwa, has pronouncedly failed to serve the needs of the populace of Harare, has chaotically mismanaged water supplies at Victoria Falls and Kariba, has failed to supply adequacy of water to the City of Bulawayo, has abused the Nyamandhlovu Aquifer, has successfully polluted the water supplies of Harare, has worsened the lot of the City of Gweru, and has nothing to show for its existence other than pronounced failures, the Ugly Sisters are determined that Zinwa take over the water purification and distribution services from Cinderella.


That Cinderella has a proven record of service, save when frustrated by the Ugly Sisters and their handmaiden, is regarded as irrelevant and of no concern.


The Ugly Sisters persist in their demand for an unequivocal surrender of Cinderella’s water management to Zinwa, and are totally dismissive of any and all representations by Cinderella, and by those she represents and serves.


No credible motivations have been given for the Ugly Sisters’ ongoing, obstinate, relentless insistence that Zinwa be accorded absolute management and control of the City of Bulawayo’s waterworks.


In reality, those motivations are probably to enable the impoverished Zinwa to exact into its grasping hands those revenues which presently accrue to Cinderella whilst, at the same time, the Ugly Sisters undoubtedly hope that Cinderella’s then impecunious state will be such that they can take absolute control of Cinderella (as they have done for years to the City of Harare, displacing those who ran that City, with the Ugly Sisters’ sycophants).


The people of Bulawayo must be united and resolute in frustrating those evil intents of the Ugly Sisters, and ensure that, as in the real pantomime, there is eventually a happy ending. They must be united behind the city fathers.


Every organisation in the city, every business, and every resident, should place on record their unreserved opposition to a Zinwa takeover, and their equally unreserved support for the city fathers in their fight to avoid the violation of Cinderella.


The city fathers, aided by the appropriate organisations, should prepare a document for signature by all Bulawayo, reaffirming support against Zinwa’s attempts to pillage that which does not belong to it, whilst demanding that Zinwa do that which is its duty, being the development of water catchment resources and bulk supply of water to urban and other authorities.


Concurrently, the city should initiate legal action in Zimbabwe’s courts for an order precluding the Ugly Sisters’ attempted rape of Cinderella.