HARARE’S proposal of a 900% increase for water tariffs and having some ratepayers pay in foreign currency should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.
The city has no justification whatsoever for such tariff hikes especially in view of the raw deal there have been giving residents through poor service delivery — and in the few cases where the service is offered indeed.
Many residents in the city have not had access to municipal water for many years, and how can those residents be expected to pay $7 up from $0.80 cents a cubic metre for a service or product they have no access to? Many such residents have resorted to
drilling boreholes in their backyards because the city authorities have been found wanting in terms of water provision.
There are also residents who have been forced to dig pits in some place in their neighbourhood to deposit rubbish because the city council has not collected garbage in many years.
It will not make sense to hike tariffs to that level against salaries of residents that have also not been increased. In our current environment, passing on costs to consumers will not work because the money is just not there. The fact that many suburbs have
been going without water means there is no justification for the impending price adjustment.
The development will also push water into the basket of luxuries when it is a basic right. The fact that Harare has on several occasions battled intermittent outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery should also be taken into account. And in the event
that some residents will not be able to pay for the service implies that the city will have to brace for more outbreaks of these primitive diseases.
During such times, the city needs to consider alternatives that it can use to ensure that residents are cushioned from the high cost of service. To solely rely on residents for funding in the current economic environment is not feasible.