A coalition of church organisations have warned government of massive protests in Bulawayo as people revolt against the water crisis being experienced in the country’s second largest city.

The water shortages have also caused the closure of several companies, resulting in hundreds of employees being redundant.

Christian Alliance, a coalition of churches that promotes peace and tolerance, said it was a matter of time before Zimbabwe witnessed a violent protest against government for failure to solve problems affecting Bulawayo.

Rev Useni Sibanda, Christian Alliance director, said Bulawayo’s water problems “magnify a deliberate government policy of marginalisation of the region.”

“Government is sitting on a time bomb. It faces a rude awakening because people are angry about company closures and water shortages,” said Sibanda. This will lead to chaos, violent protests because people will not accept a situation where they are denied jobs, and now water.”

Sibanda was addressing a peace-building meeting organised by Bulawayo Agenda, Christian Alliance and the Church and Civil Society Forum, held in Lupane last month.

Bulawayo mayor, Thaba Moyo, has said the council may be forced to use National Railways of Zimbabwe locomotives to ferry water from the Zambezi River to the city. “We will not sit and watch,” he said. “We have made some plans to bring water from other towns or from the Zambezi River using the National Railways of Zimbabwe goods trains.”

Close to 100 companies have shut down in Bulawayo since 2010, sending close to 20,000 employees into joblessness. The few that are operating have downsized operations while mulling relocation to other cities, citing crippling water shortages.

Some suburbs have gone for weeks without water after the local authority introduced a tight water rationing regime following the decommissioning of dams.

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