Villagers cross Botswana to fetch water

The Chronicle

Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Fubawulu, Bulilima

VILLAGERS from four villages in Ward 10 of Bulilima district in Matabeleland South have been forced to illegally cross into neighboring Botswana to fetch water from the Maitengwe River after the wall of the Fubawulu dam, their only water source, in 2019, which caused the dam to become completely dry.

The villagers and diasporas of the Ward, which has a total of seven villages, have since mobilized and managed to raise 150,000 rand.

The money was used to hire a grader in Bulawayo, 250km away, and to cover labor costs for rebuilding the massive wall that collapsed.

Each of the 1,350 farms in the district had to contribute R100 while the diasporas paid R450 each.

Villagers Mrs. Thembelenkosini Ndlovu and Mrs. Handukani Sibanda from Tshilukutu village cross the Botswana border with buckets full of water collected from the Maitengwe River

An additional R50,000 is needed to rebuild the spillway which has been condemned by city engineers.

“This project is purely community funded, as a council, we have provided technical expertise to them so that a similar disaster will not happen again,” said Acting Chief Executive Officer of Bulilima District Council, Mr. Brilliant Mlauzi.

This makes the situation even more unbearable for the villagers, especially from four villages; Fubawulu, Nsubula, Bambadzi and Tshilukutu is that there are no boreholes, which makes them completely dependent on the dam, which is now dry.

The council blamed financial handicap and the deep water table as the reason why it was difficult to drill boreholes.

Ward 10 Councillor, who is also Chairman of Bulilima Rural District Council, Councilor Zoolakes Nyathi said that they had already tried to drill a borehole at Fubawulu but the rigs were only 70m long when the water table was 100 m deep.

“As a council, we have received funds from the Community Development Fund as well as the Decentralization Fund, but urgent priority issues have made it difficult to use the funding to drill boreholes. We used CDF to build a clinic for the neighborhood because there was no clinic in the neighborhood, the Mpimba clinic just waiting to be opened. As for the decentralization funds, the money was used to construct sewage basins for Hlalani Kuhle houses in Figtree for fear of disease outbreaks,” Clr Nyathi said.

However, the Maitengwe River is dry and the villagers are digging water points (imthombo) and have to wake up as early as 4 a.m., exposing themselves to criminals. Cases of rape have also been reported.

water holes

“We know we are doing it illegally but the good thing is Border Security knows our water problem, as long as we go and fetch water there is no problem. Our only challenge is the distance we walk to the river, it is about 5 km from where I am staying,” said Mrs. Handukani Sibanda from Tshilukutu village who was in the company of Mrs. Thembelenkosini Ndlovu.

Their cattle drink from the same river but on the Zimbabwean side, which is more than 5km away, hence their decision to cross the border.

On the Zimbabwean side, it is the same modus operandi (water points) to fetch water for livestock.

“It’s not an easy task when we go to fetch water for our cattle, you can imagine a herd of say 25 cattle, plus other animals like goats and donkeys. You fetch water using a single 25 liter bucket until all the animals are finished,” said Mr. Wabo Khupe who was tending his donkeys.

The village chief of Tshilukutu, Count Nleya, said it was a struggle that needed urgent attention.

“They say water is life and since we don’t have access to water, that means we don’t have life. It’s thanks to the benevolence of the Botswana authorities who took the decision not to drive us out, otherwise it could be a real disaster for us, an entire village without a single borehole is tragic,” Mr Nleya said.

His Bambadzi counterpart, Mr. Patrick Moyo echoed the same sentiments.

“My village has no borehole, people rely on digging imthombo to the Maitengwe River on the Botswana side, which poses many criminal risks to wildlife, especially elephants,” Mr Moyo said.


Although Bambadzi Primary School has tap water which they draw from the Maitengwe River, villagers who want to avail of tap water have to part with 40 rand.

“This position was taken so that the school could meet maintenance costs such as the purchase of diesel. Less than 30 villagers actually paid,” Mr. Moyo said.

Ms. Chengetai Nyathi from Nsubula village said that whenever she thinks of water, her heart aches.

“Life for us is unbearable to be honest. Can you imagine walking more than 5 km to fetch water, worse in a foreign country where your trip can turn for the worse. Although we generally enjoyed peace thanks to the border security, from time to time you can be harassed, especially if there has been a shift change. Just recently there was a case of rape because sometimes we wake up around 4am while it is still dark,” Ms Nyathi said.

the elephants

To alleviate water problems, the government, through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), has embarked on a 12-impact dam construction project, the giant Lake Gwayi- Shangani being the flagship of the project.

The project is in line with the vision of the Second Republic to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy by 2030.

The new dams will also have hydroelectric power stations in keeping with the rural industrialization push of the Second Republic as the nation aims for food self-sufficiency.

The electricity generated from the dam sites will provide power to rural communities while powering the irrigation projects that will be put in place after the construction of the water bodies.

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