By Garikai Mafirakureva
In a case similar to the biblical parable in which David was asked by God why he would take one sheep from a poor man to feed his visitors when he had plenty in his flock to choose from — Chiredzi’s poorest are being billed for water they never used, while the rich are enjoying free unmetered water.
This was revealed when investigations carried out by Southern Eye showed that the majority of residents in high density areas, where there is no water at all, were being asked to settle water bills, while most properties owned by the town’s rich people currently have no water meters.
A visit to properties around the town owned by business people, senior government and council officials, politicians and several lodges showed they were enjoying uninterrupted water supply, with no water meters installed at the properties.
Some such properties in the high-density area include numbers 3451 and 3452 where water is connected directly, with owners reportedly not paying a dime.
Both properties, which are being used as Busy B Pre-School and a private college, respectively, are allegedly owned by town engineer Wesley Kauma although they have been leased.
Kauma said some of the properties he owned were not connected to the main line, but could not come clean on the others said to be connected to the main line.
“I always ferry water using drums to my properties and on the issue of paying bills, I will send you my statements,” Kauma said.
There are several other such properties where uninterrupted water supply is connected directly, among them stands number 3609 and 3610.
The list has over 100 properties owned by the elite, which are either connected directly or owe council thousands of dollars, but enjoying free water supply, depriving the cash-strapped council of revenue running into thousands of dollars monthly.
Ironically, residents in the Magwaza area receive water once or twice a month, but are billed just like everyone else.
Corruption is allegedly so rife at Chiredzi Town Council to an extent that it is reported the local authority has sold almost every Commonage stand.
There was also evidence that churches, politicians and council officials had bought commercial stands in the medium density area, measuring over 1 400m2-8 000m2 at 50c and $1 per m2, respectively, while ordinary home seekers are made to pay $27 per m2.
Former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere once described the council as too corrupt and threatened to fire all councillors after they allocated each other 40 stands per person. The Nhamo Commission was set, but the audit report never saw the light of day.
When contacted for comment, housing director Emily Paradza referred all questions to the town secretary. “Talk to the town secretary; he is the mouthpiece of the council,” she said.
Chiredzi town council chairperson Gibson Hwende only asked who the businesspeople and council officials were, but after being furnished with the information, he did not respond to further questions.
Town clerk Charles Muchatukwa could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone went unanswered and did not respond to questions sent to him by text.
United Chiredzi Residents and Ratepayers’ Association (UCHIRRA) said they were failing to understand why the ministry was reluctant to investigate the rot in the council.
“We are still waiting for the audit report by the Nhamo Commission, four years down the line. Who is leading this cartel from the ministry? We are soon going to engage the Zimbabwe Anti-Corrruption Commission on this matter.
“How can a council with people at heart disconnect water in the high density while the elite enjoy free benefits? You remember they once disconnected water at a funeral?” UCHIRRA secretary Bernard Dachi said.