THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has dragged five urban councils and 15 rural districts to court seeking an order to be absolved from paying licence fees and levies for its water infrastructure dotted around the country.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Zinwa argued in its submissions that the Urban Councils Act does not empower councils to charge levies for water infrastructure within their areas of juridictions.
The State entity filed the court application on June 13 this year and the matter is yet to be set down for hearing.
In her affidavit filed alongside the application, Zinwa’s corporate secretary and legal advisor, Loveness Mhundirwa, said the issue had been prompted by the recent developments where Beitbridge, Chipinge, Karoi, and Mvurwi town councils together with Vungu rural district council, had approached the State entity requesting payment of the charged levies.
“This is an application for a declaratory order. The relief sought by the applicant as against first, fourth, ninth, seventeenth and eighteenth respondents (Beitbridge, Chipinge, Karoi, and Mvurwi Town Councils and Vungu Rural District Council) is to the following effect,” Mhundirwa said.
“The levying by respondents on applicant of way leave charges, or specified business licence or trading licences or licence penalties or volumetric charges or ex-gratia charges, is outside the provisions of the Urban District Councils (UDC) Act and is therefore unlawful as against the rest of the respondents.”
She added: “The levying by the respondents of unit tax, way-leave charges, land and development levies, service charges, depot rate, lease development levy, water infrastructure special levy, sewer infrastructure special levy, roads infrastructure special levy is outside the provisions of the Rural District Councils (RDC) Act.”
Mhundirwa said the UDC’s and RDC’s could only lawfully charge any such tax or levies as were set out under the provisions of the respective councils Acts, adding the councils had no power to raise any charges which are not supported by any statutory provision.
The corporate secretary said there has inevitably been disagreements in respect of these issues as the councils maintained they are entitled to raise the disputed levies.
“They in fact continue to raise them. Applicant takes the view that this court must be asked to declare the position of the law,” she said adding: “Applicant has various water infrastructures that cut right across the country. Such infrastructure, and as just indicated, include dams, boreholes, reservoirs, pumping stations, pipelines and treatment plants.
“Some of the infrastructures are found in areas that fall under urban councils and rural district councils. Without this water infrastructure, the applicant may not discharge its mandate in urban areas. It also may not discharge its mandate to the rural councils,” Mhundirwa said.
“It must be pointed out that applicant does not receive a service from the urban councils and the rural district councils in the consequence of it having the said water infrastructure. If at all, it is the applicant that provides the councils with water which the councils provide to the residents as one of their key services.”
Zinwa said a practice had now grown in terms of which the cited councils were now charging it for having water infrastructure that either pass through or are in the areas of the urban and rural councils concerned.
“The charges are not insignificant. For instance some of the respondents charge huge amounts of money for land occupied by dams or water pipelines. That is quite heavy as it translates to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.” Zinwa said.