Zimbabwe has implemented a water sector reform programme aimed at decentralizing water resources management to the user level. The Water Act of 1998 led to the establishment of new management institutions. Although the act does not make any reference to customary law, traditional informal practices still prevail among rural communities. Case studies illustrate that the new water legislation lacks relevance for rural communities, who rely on their indigenous institutions for the management of natural resources. These customary practices are well understood by the people, they have congruence with their worldviews and are functional. There is a conspicuous absence of true devolution of authority in the new statutory arrangements. This means that at grass roots level, the only consistent and observable form of management is that found in local customary institutions. The paper argues that despite the influence of colonial and post-colonial regimes, traditional institutions remain relevant to local communities.
International workshop on ‘African Water Laws: Plural Legislative Frameworks for Rural Water Managementin Africa’, 26-28 January 2005, Johannesburg, South Africa. IWMI, Pretoria, 13 pp.