Arnold Payne

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Arnold Payne

Arnold Payne who was also known as The Waterman was a civic leader and a renowned Bulawayo water activist who fought to advance the livelihoods of the citizens of Matabeleland particularly through improving access to clean water.

Payne also initiated the formation of a political party called the Revolutionary Council for the Advancement of Coloured People (RCACP). [1] whose main objective was to advance the interests of people of mixed race (coloureds) in Zimbabwe.

Personal Details

Born: 8 January 1938 in Mtshabezi in Gwanda.
Marriage: To Sheila, They had 6 children.
Death: 25 August 2014. At Mater Dei Hospital. He suffered a stroke in 2012 and since then up to the time of his death he was in and out of hospital. [2] He died a disappointed fellow who was unable to make his dream come true though all his stuff was inscribed with the words 'Zambezi Water for Matabeleland'.

School / Education

No information was found on his Junior or High School, or any tertiary education.


Payne became a household name in 1992 when he pushed a wheelbarrow containing a 210 litre drum filled with water which he had drawn from Zambezi River to Bulawayo, Gwanda and Harare. [3] After successfully reaching Bulawayo from Zambezi, Payne stated that;

If one man can manage to ferry the water on a wheelbarrow in a drum 500 kilometres, what can stop a willing and committed government from pumping the water from the same distance [3]

This act and or event was considered as a symbolic gesture meant to raise the urgency of those in positions of power to spearhead the development of the Zambezi Water for Matabeleland project. This project was initiated in 1912. [4]

Payne stated that he had managed to source funds from Holland (in 1992) but because the government wanted the money to be channeled through its treasury the donors refused to comply. [4] During the same year, he formed a trust called Operation Desperation Trust together with his trusted lieutenants Pius Ncube, David Coltart and Israel Ndlovu. [4] The mandate of the trust was to raise funds for the water project.

When the government failed to act upon Payne's request after the 1992 one man demonstration against the perennial water shortages in Matabeleland, Payne resorted to other means to invoke the government. He wrote letters and made endless phone calls. [5] All of his efforts were however in vain.

In the 2000 Elections, (see A History of Zimbabwean Elections) Bulawayo North East returned to Parliament:

In 2013, Payne brought to light the issue of the Gukurahundi massacres arguing that the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) had a lot to do in order to gain the trust of those residing in Matabeleland. [6] His main aim was arguably to force the party to act upon the Zambezi Water for Matabeleland Project. Addressing people on a rally Payne said;

ZANU PF has a duty to ensure that the water comes to this region. We all know of what they did in this region soon after independence and to deserve absolution they need to give us water [6]

The project is still yet to be undertaken.


Suing The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)

In October 2008, Payne sued and dragged the ZBC into court arguing that the corporation was supposed to reduce television licenses for people outside Harare on the basis that they were always disadvantaged. [1] Nothing was ever heard of concerning this case.

Further Reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 Vusi Moyo, A new Political Party for coloured people is formed, Zim Eye, published:31 Aug 2008,retrieved:1 September 2014"
  2. ACTIVIST ARNOLD PAYNE DIES, News dzeZimbabwe, published:27 Aug 2014,retrieved:1 September 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, Mr Arnold Payne Dies, 22 Years After Emptying 210 Litres of Zambezi Water in Gwanda, Zim Eye, published:27 Aug 2014,retrieved:1 September 2014"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 BULAWAYO WATER ACTIVIST ARNOLD PAYNE DIES, Sunrise Zimbabwe, published:27 Aug 2014,retrieved:1 September 2014"
  5. Somhambi Zilangwe, Arnold Payne a national hero., Bulawayo 24 News, published:27 Aug 2014,retrieved:1 September 2014"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jeffrey Muvundusi, Zanu PF should appease Gukurahundi spirits: Payne, Weekend Post, published:16 Aug 2013,retrieved:1 September 2014"

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