Water, History and Politics in Zimbabwe: Bulawayo’s struggles with the environment, 1894-2008 by Muchaparara Musemwa

book cover for Water, History and Politics in Zimbabwe
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This book examines the City of Bulawayo's struggles with the environment from 1894 to 2008 given its location in the perennially semi-arid region of south-western Zimbabwe. It focuses on a case-study of Makokoba, the city s first and oldest township, and explores the history of its African residents and their struggles over access to water during this period from a sustainable livelihoods perspective one which emphasizes that human security and environmental sustainability are inextricably intertwined. The book argues that water scarcity in Bulawayo, especially as it affected Africans for the most part, was a result of both biophysical conditions and man-made policies which were linked to deep-rooted struggles over access to, and management of, water resources in both colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe.

‘A well-researched and very lucidly written book that offers a refreshingly novel way of looking at Zimbabwean urban history through an insightful analysis of the lived experiences of the inhabitants of the city of Bulawayo s suburb of Makokoba over long periods of persistent water scarcity from the end of the nineteenth century to the present. It also examines how the politics of access to and control of scarce water resources in the town and Matebeleland region affected the dynamics of local, regional and national social, political and economic developments and relations. This is a pioneering study that focuses on Zimbabwe s environmental history, a much neglected aspect of Zimbabwe s past, whose appreciation is crucial to a meaningful understanding of the various factors that have shaped the country s socio-political and economic experience in recent times.’ – Alois S. Mlambo Head of Historical and Heritage Studies Department, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
‘The first major study of the politics of water in Southern Africa, this path-breaking monograph will revolutionise the region's historiography. Conceptually sophisticated and clearly written, Water, History and Politics in Zimbabwe, displays a mastery of the comparative secondary literature, even as it draws on a wealth of archival sources and oral interviews to develop interlinked local, regional and global themes. Mucha Musemwa, Associate Professor of Environmental History at the University of the Witwatersrand, has written the best book by far on Bulawayo, on urban struggles and on the political economy of water.’ – Ian Phimister Professor of International History, University of Sheffield.
‘In this scholarly but engaging monograph, Musemwa looks at water in Bulawayo, exploring its socio-political facets and asking how the urban poor in one township, Makokoba, adapted. He shows that water shortages, floods, and even droughts are not only natural disasters but also cultural constructions and indeed sometimes calculated political decisions. In short, Musemwa shows that water flows uphill to power. As a socio-environmental historian, he has a visceral understanding of the human experience of water. – Bob Dylan – another kind of social historian reminds us that “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” With Musemwa, we feel the rain.’ – Sandra Swart, President, Southern African Historical Society, Editor, South African Historical Journal and Associate Professor, History Department, Stellenbosch University