BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
HARARE residents are reeling under the exorbitant water charges that were effected in January when the 2021 budget became effective.
Residents said they had received water bills indicating arrears ranging from $9 000 to $30 000.
When the proposed $32,7 billion (US$400 million) financial plan for 2021, was tabled, it met stiff resistance from both residents and their respective associations who felt that the tariff hike of at least 2 800% for basic services was unjustified.
In a statement, the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) said the 2021 budget was unrealistic and left out issues raised by residents during consultations which included regular water provision and attending to water bursts timeously.
The HRT said the water and rates charges were inconsiderate to the plight of the residents, especially during the COVID-19 era.
“Rates have increased beyond the reach of many residents, further straining residents’ incomes that have received a battering from inflation in 2020,” HRT said.
According to the new rates, basic service charges will be around $1 700 in high-density areas while a family in the middle-density suburb will now be paying over $4 500 monthly.
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The first five cubic litres of water for a high-density suburb is now $575 compared to $20 in January 2020, $565 for a once-a-week bin collection up from $28, a sewage charge of $250 for each toilet up from $41 and a minimum property tax of $345 up from $56.
“The increases become more unjustified considering that the city fathers are using estimated billing,” complained Makomborero Shonhiwa, a resident of Westlea.
Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the threat of COVID-19 had left them with no option.
“Because of COVID-19, our employees could not physically carry out the meter readings. The threat of being infected was too real. We considered preventive measures like social distancing and limited movement by using estimates,” he said.
“Water production now averages 404 million to 440 million litres of water per day, which is an improvement. We pay for water purification chemicals in United States dollars. In order to provide clean water, we need to purify it.”
He said if there were anomalies on the billing system, the residents were free to visit council offices for recourse.Follow Phyllis on Twitter @pmbanje