‘Elitist approaches on water provision unacceptable’

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PLANS by the Harare City Council to install prepaid water meters in urban areas have been met with stiff resistance from the impoverished majority who contend that prepayment would take away their constitutional right of access to water.

BY EDGAR GWESHE

At a time the country’s unemployment rate is pegged at over 90%, residents’ associations contend that very few would be able to pay for water in advance due to the dire economic situation in the country.

According to the residents, this would compromise people’s health as they would not be able to afford water yet the country’s supreme law recognises the right of access to water.

What is disturbing about the proposed introduction of the prepaid water meters is the lack of consultation of residents by the council on the project, a development that has set the stage for a showdown between residents and the local authority.

To make matters worse, the MDC-T, which controls the Harare City Council, has been sending conflicting signals over the proposed introduction of prepaid water meters in a development that has prompted residents to remind the party’s councillors that they are there to serve the interests of the residents who are the electorate.

A series of campaigns held by the Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) in high-density suburbs have revealed that people are opposed to prepayment of water.

The City of Harare, however, seems to have adopted an elitist approach as far as the proposed introduction of the prepaid water meters is concerned.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni is on record saying that prepaid water meters had received a thumbs up from low-density suburbs such as Borrowdale, Highlands and Mt Pleasant.

Residents’ associations are of the view that the city fathers have turned a blind eye to the plight of poor people in high-density suburbs who constitute the majority.

The Harare Metropolitan Residents’ Forum (HamRef) spokesperson Simbarashe Moyo said it was sad that the Harare City Council was misrepresenting issues in a bid to justify the introduction of the prepaid water meters.

“This is basically about creating certain impressions and not telling the truth,” said Moyo.

“The truth is obviously the biggest casualty in this crisis pitting the residents and the municipality.

“They (City of Harare) are trying, but failing to paint this impression that residents in the northern suburbs have better capacity to pay for water than residents in high-density areas and, therefore, the residents in the northern suburbs do not have a problem with pre-paid water meters.

“Also, councillors should be reminded that residents are the electorate and they should not go ahead and approve a project that is opposed by the residents.”

He blamed Harare City Council officials of rushing the introduction of prepaid water meters in a bid to amass benefits from the project.

Water woes 2

“The City of Harare has not yet done adequate consultations with all the residents on the issue of prepaid water meters and there seems to be a mad rush being engineered by ‘tenderpreneurs’ who stand to benefit from the installation of prepaid water meters,” said Moyo.

“The residents are now aware through public awareness campaigns by CHRA and HamRef that prepaid water meters are not the wonder drug to challenges related to the provision of clean and potable water.”

CHRA chief executive officer Mfundo Mlilo blamed the Harare City Council of misrepresenting information pertaining to the introduction of prepaid water meters. He said it was imperative for the local authority to take into account the suffering of the impoverished majority.

Mlilo said that unlike sentiments from the city officials, Harare residents had unanimously rejected prepayment of water.

“CHRA has held more than 20 consultative meetings in high-density suburbs in Harare on the issue of prepaid water meters and there has been a unanimous response by residents that they do not want prepaid water meters and are, therefore, prepared to resist them using all forms of resistance,” said Mlilo.

“For the past two weeks, we have been having door to door visits in Tafara, Mabvuku and Kambuzuma educating residents on the dangers of accepting prepaid water meters.”

Mlilo said that due to the fact that most people in high-density suburbs could not afford to pay for water in advance,
disease outbreaks would be rampant.

“From studies that have been carried out in Durban where prepaid water meters were installed, the issues of cholera outbreaks feature prominently. Residents from high-density suburbs risk contracting water-borne diseases like cholera when prepaid water meters are introduced and the city health department is likely not going to be able to cope with the outbreaks,” said Mlilo.

Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust (Chitrest) director Marvelous Khumalo said unlike sentiments from authorities, prepayment of water would not solve the current water shortages facing residents.

“Chitrest is against the installation of prepaid water meters because it is not a solution. First, there is no consistent supply of water and the water billing system is in shambles with a number of properties not being billed,” said Khumalo.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think it will be a good move if it improves the supply of water. City of Harare can choose areas to pilot this project first and see how it goes. Am in support.

  2. its a good idea until your neighbour fails to pay for water or elects to save by using open spaces in your neighbourhood for convinience or they is a funeral in your neighbourhood maybe at your house will you charge people to use the facilities? I think they are better ways and they do not involve hoping by pre paying Motton Jeffrey will some how expand to provide for Harare. I suggest all public officers get bus allowances and use public transport and we auction all their vehicles I am sure we will raise enough money from the sale and fuel allowances to build another water plant.

  3. This is madness of the first order someone trying to get political milage or what.Look there are many rights which you can mention right to food is one of them, lack of it which is also a health hazard but do you walk into a supermarket and pick a trolley of food without paying claiming that its your right.There is nothing elitist about trying to introduce a system which ensures that you are paying for the commodity which you are consuming.The council should try to further improve the water supply situation from the current levels.Ten years ago we were paying for the same water we should simply pay for the water we are using period.Installing the prepaid meters is one way of making sure that at least the majority of people pay for it.This free ride on everything attitude is slowly eating away our sense of civic responsibility.

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