Gweru prepaid water meter pilot project in false start

Gweru City Council

GWERU City Council’s prepaid water meter pilot project has started on a false note with residents facing challenges with council's latest move.

The local authority has since February this year rolled out 80 out of a targeted 100 water meters in the three suburbs of Southdowns, Southview and Ivene in a test-run. Council intends to roll out prepaid meters in the entire city if the project proves to be successful.

But speaking on Monday at an ordinary council meeting, councillors said residents who had been selected in the test-run were facing challenges with the meters.

“Residents especially in Ivene have approached me complaining that after buying the water tokens and the meters did not show the units left as is the case with Zesa prepaid meters, for example,” said councillor Martin Chivhoko (ward 7).

“Moreover, there is no clear time-frame for this pilot project which is giving residents headaches before it is even implemented in the whole city.”

Councillor Gideon Mugariri (ward 7) agreed and said residents were also complaining of double billing.

“Besides the water for prepaid meters bought solely in United States dollars, residents are being double billed,” Mugariri said.

“People are buying water for prepaid meters in US dollars but making separate payments for rates in RTGS.”

Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi said management should compile a report on the pilot project as a matter of urgency.

In response, acting town clerk Livingston Churu said: “I will make sure the relevant department gives feedback on the challenges faced in the pilot project.”

The city has on several occasions shelved plans to introduce prepaid water meters citing financial constraints and the need for a feasibility study.

Over the years, residents associations in the Midlands capital have resisted the introduction of prepaid water meters arguing the move would compromise people’s right to water especially after the city previously experienced water-borne diseases such as typhoid and cholera which claimed lives.

Council, however, argues that prepaid water meters would improve its revenue collection and put a lid on bill defaulters.

Residents owe the local authority more than $12 billion in unpaid water bills.

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