Bulk Water Suppliers in the City of Harare – An endogenous form of privatisation of urban domestic water services in Zimbabwe?
ABSTRACT: This paper investigates the phenomenon of bulk water suppliers in the city of Harare, Zimbabwe’s largest urban metropolis and capital. Bulk water suppliers began in 2005 to sell domestic water to middle- and high-income suburbs because of shortcomings in the city’s water delivery system without state regulation, and have since become a permanent feature of the Zimbabwean urban waterscape. The study was conducted between 2012 and 2013 in three up-market suburbs of Harare, which were known to depend on bulk water suppliers. State regulation of bulk water suppliers was introduced in 2013, close to a decade after the start of operations, indicating a reactive and reluctant acknowledgement that bulk water suppliers were now significant players in water service provision. The regulation was, however, poorly conceptualised, based on potable water standards, which proved to be cumbersome and placed onerous demands on the suppliers. The paper concludes that bulk water suppliers are playing a critical role in water service provision in Zimbabwe’s largest metropolis and represent a spontaneous injection of local private capital in the urban domestic water supply sector. They can therefore be seen as a viable endogenous form of privatisation of urban domestic water service (as contrasted to multinational companies) but should be viewed as complementing rather than replacing functional urban water supply systems. The operations of bulk water suppliers can be enhanced if a regulatory regime, informed by realities on the ground is crafted.
KEYWORDS: Urban domestic water supply, privatisation, waterscape, bulk water suppliers, Zimbabwe