Chiredzi water bills battle spills to courts

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have written to the Chiredzi Town Council over dereliction of duty.

By own correspondent

In a letter read in a full council meeting on Tuesday by town secretary, Charles Muchatukwa, which he referred to as a test case, ZLHR demanded that council should remove accumulated water bills from statements of accounts for water not supplied.

Makondo Extension residents have gone for over seven months without running water and there is no sewer reticulation system and roads in the area, but they continue receiving accumulated bills for the services.

Residents were said to have made several complaints to council, which neglected and/or refused to attend to the grievances.

They were also fetching water from unprotected water source exposing them to waterborne diseases.

The stands were offered to residents in 2010 at $500 each by the Local Government ministry since it was State land and the MDC-T-led council was involved in the establishment of the residential area.

Although the area was not developed, council advised residents to construct houses with septic tanks and soakaways.

It further advised them to pay an additional $900 in 2014 for the construction of roads, water and sewer reticulation systems.

The letter to council read: “Local authorities are a frontline of service delivery as the Urban Councils Act [chapter 27:07] empowers them to provide and charge for collection, conveyance, treatment, and disposal of sewerage or storm water, construction of roads and supply and the maintenance and others on areas under the areas of their jurisdiction as provided under section 168 and section 198(1) as read with second schedule of the Urban Council Act [29:29] and section 57 to 59 of the Environment Management Act [Chapter 20:27].

“Councils play key roles in the delivery of basic public services and infrastructure necessary for business development. The failure by council to provide these basic services is not only a service delivery issue, but a violation of fundamental human rights protected in the Constitution such as the right to water and right to health.

“Our instructions are to demand as we are, hereby, to do that: you provide information on steps that council is going to take to make water available and timelines of each step, accumulated water bills for the water not supplied be removed from our clients’ statement of accounts, you are to provide information on steps that council is going to take to make available essential services such as construction of roads, sewer and refuse collection and timelines, and provide information on how council used $900 per each stands development fees paid by residents.

“Failure of which we have strict instructions to approach the courts for urgent redress, costs of suit which will be borne by you. Furthermore our clients will not be paying for services not rendered.”

Unicef withdrew $646 000 it had offered to Chiredzi to alleviate the town’s perennial water problems after council failed to meet deadlines.

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