Market Bailiffs have revealed that the water crisis has become the greatest challenge in the lives of vendors, informal traders and most communities in Bulawayo, leading them to sleep in queues waiting for water bowsers and fetching water from unsafe sources. The situation has been made even more dire by the corona virus pandemic, as the lack of running water increases the risk of contracting the virus.
Vendors and informal traders who sell outside markets or in front of their houses are having a major challenge of accessing water for washing their hands and wares.
In some suburbs especially Old Magwegwe and Lobengula, taps have been dry for over nine months. Even when water is made available, it does not reach areas that are on higher ground. This has greatly affected vendors and informal traders.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been trying to alleviate the water crisis by providing water bowsers which are not reliable as they do not come most of the time. Vendors are forced to leave their places of business to go and queue for water in bowsers which have no set timetable.
“Sometimes the bowser does not come after spending the whole day waiting for it, putting all chores on hold, including selling,” said Nqobile Ndlovu, Ward 18 Chairperson and Market Bailiff.
“Some vendors and informal traders have resorted to drawing water they need for washing from unprotected sources such as ponds and leaking water pipes, or tapping into sewage gutters for water to flush their toilets,” said Juliet Samison, a Market Bailiff.
“In Cowdray Park vendors and traders are now fetching water in a gorge that was dug by BCC which is very dangerous to children who are sent by parents to fetch water,” continued Samison.
“Some traders now bring the little water that they have from their homes, they put the water in two-litre bottles and drill a small hole on the lid for customers to wash hands,” said Nobukhosi Moyo, another Market Bailiff.
This issue emerged through the Sizimele Consortium where Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) is a member that is funded by Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) on the Market Aggregation – COVID-19 Vendors Response – Market Access project. The initiative supports vendors and informal traders that are affected by the water crisis by providing hand sanitisers for those who cannot afford them.
“The government must find alternative ways of providing people with water, more bowsers should be sent or water kiosks must be set up as promised”, Racheal Ncube, BVTA member and Market Bailiff told Vendors Voice.