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The complex politics of water and power in Zimbabwe: IWRM in the Catchment Councils of Manyame, Mazowe and Sanyati (1993-2001)

Bill Derman
Norwegian University of the Life Sciences, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Aas, Norway; bill.derman@nmbu.no

Emmanuel Manzungu
University of Zimbabwe, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Harare, Zimbabwe; emmanuelmanzungu@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: In the mid-nineties Zimbabwe formed participatory institutions known as catchment and sub-catchment councils based on river basins to govern and manage its waters. These councils were initially funded by a range of donors anticipating that they could become self-funding over time through the sale of water. In this article, we explore the origins of three of the councils and the political context in which they functioned. The internal politics were shaped by the commercial farming elites who sought to control the councils with a 'defensive strategy' to keep control over water. However, external national political processes limited the possibilities for continued elite control while simultaneously limiting water reform. Despite significant efforts to alter the waterscape, fast track land reform which began in 2000 led to the undermining of the first phases of IWRM and water reform and to the privileging of land over water. The economic foundations for funding the new participatory institutions were lost through the withdrawal of donors, the loss of large-scale farmers able to pay for water and the economic and political crises that characterised the period from 2000 to 2010.

KEYWORDS: IWRM, power, water reform, catchment councils, Zimbabwe