BY LUYANDUHLOBO MAKWATI
Aprominent Matabeleland South traditional leader Chief Mathema has urged the government to ensure that people in the province benefit from the vast water bodies in their region.
Chief Mathema was responding to complaints by villagers in the Mayezane area in Gwanda North that despite living close to big rivers, they were bearing the brunt of the devastating drought.
Gwanda is one of the districts hardest hit by the drought, which has killed livestock and wild animals.
A number of families are also going hungry because of poor harvests during the 2018/19 farming season.
The district also bore the brunt of severe water shortages after small dams that service them ran dry.
This is despite the fact that Tuli, Hove, Mtshabezi, Umzingwane and Mtshelela rivers run through the areas in Gwanda North, including areas under Chief Mathema.
“It is important for the government through its arms to provide water for citizens. It is disappointing that Matabeleland South as a region has huge rivers but does not benefit from them,” he said.
“In this instance, I am talking about my area, which is dry but the dams in this area are feeding and supplying people in cities while our people and animals are dying.”
Three of Bulawayo’s supply dams are on Mtshabezi and Umzingwane rivers in Matabeleland South.
“There are huge rivers in this region,” Chief Mathema added.
“The water that people drink in urban areas comes from this region.
“It is so sad that this water almost every year causes fatalities, as it kills our livestock, our children through drowning while on their way from school.
“Once the rainy season is over and the dams are full, no one looks at us. We only read of stories in the press that Mtshabezi Dam will supply Bulawayo with water for the next three years.”
Themba Nyoni, a villager in Mayezane, said the government had betrayed late nationalist Joshua Nkomo’s dream where he envisaged the construction of dams close to villages.
“Nkomo’s vison was that after every 10 kms where there are rivers, water must be diverted and boreholes must be sunk in those particular areas, but to date nothing has happened,” he said. “We are calling upon the leadership of this area to look into this issue.”
Mthelisi Ncube, another villager in the area, said it was disheartening that the government had done nothing to alleviate the effects of the current drought.
“It is shocking that more than 500 herd of cattle have died in our area nothing has been done, no boreholes have been sunk,” he said.
“Then one asks where is our future as the people of Mayezane and all surrounding areas?”