Council, Zinwa $1m dispute spills into court

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THE cash-strapped Kwekwe City Council has approached the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) seeking to bar the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) from cutting off supplies over a $1 million debt.

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

The local authority wants the ConCourt to declare the water cuts by Zinwa unconstitutional.

Through its lawyers, Mutatu and Partners, the council argues that the right to water is a fundamental human right as enshrined in Section 77 of the Constitution.

Council said moves by Zinwa to cut the city’s water supplies on November 5 last year were a violation of the Constitution. Section 77 of the Constitution guarantees the right to water and food.

“Respondent (Zinwa) therefore has a legal duty to work with applicant (council) so as to assist each other in the fulfilment of and protection of fundamental rights provided for in the Constitution,” read part of the application.

Council blames its failure to settle water debts to a directive made by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo in the run-up to the 2013 general elections forcing all local authorities to write off ratepayers’ bills.

“It is abundantly clear from papers filed of record that Kwekwe City Council is not the beneficiary of the water, but its residents who are citizens of this republic,” council argued. “It is also clear that Kwekwe City Council’s failure to meet the bills is not mala fide (in bad faith), but due to the government’s directive.”

Meanwhile, Kwekwe mayor Matenda Madzoke said he was not aware that council had taken Zinwa to court over the water issue.

He also said he was unaware that council had disconnected water supplies to residents who had not paid their bills.

“I am hearing of this court case now, but it should make common sense that if we as a council claim that water should not be denied to us because it is a right to our residents, then we should not be denying them the same water,” Madzoke said.

“I therefore pledge to ensure that this does not continue.”