BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
RESIDENTS of Umzingwane’s sprawling Habane Township in Matabeleland South have rejected plans by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to install pre-paid water meters in the area.
Zinwa had already started piloting the pre-paid water meter project amid reports that a rollout programme was expected to start in October.
Residents have rejected the pre-paid water meters arguing that Zinwa should first address water shortages in the area where residents can go for days without the precious liquid.
The residents insist that Zinwa should also construct a water reservoir in the short-term to address the attendant water challenges.
An engagement meeting was held between Zinwa and residents on Wednesday where the latter dug in, forcing the water authority to backtrack on its plans to install the water meters.
“You have brought these meters yet there is no water. How can we talk of installing prepaid water meters in my house when I have stayed here for five years without water? Half of the community does not have access to water and I don’t see how these metres will help,” the area councillor Patson Sibanda said.
Monica Mguni, a resident, added: “Zinwa once promised to construct a water reservoir, but to date, it remains on paper. They need to address water challenges before talking about these meters.”
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The Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) argued that pre-paid meters would discriminate against the poor and run against the universal right to water.
“WILD has been making efforts to ensure that duty bearers are accountable to citizens and also to ensure that residents engage Zinwa and the local authority relating to access and affordability of water,” WILD spokesperson Bridget Hanana said.
Zinwa spokesperson Marjorie Munyonga said pre-paid meters will help deal with problems of estimated meter readings, misuse of water and above all, force residents to pay for water usage.
“We need to continually engage with the residents associations, show them what we are doing, how it will impact so that they are also part of the solution. We will then come back with the issue of prepaid-water meters, maybe later on, after we have addressed the concerns of residents,” Munyonga said.
The issue of water meters has courted controversy in most cities and towns across Zimbabwe.
In Bulawayo, the local authority proposed use of prepaid water meters in 2011, but the idea was rejected by residents.
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