Rights lawyers wade into prepaid water meters furore

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has waded into the highly-controversial prepaid water meter wrangle by challenging the Bulawayo City Council to clarify its position on the matter.

In a February 12 dated letter addressed to the city council’s chamber secretary, Sikhangele Zhou, ZLHR requested to be furnished with “pertinent information relating to the pre-paid water meter project”, threatening to take a legal route in case their request was ignored.

“We have noted with concern the debate on pre-paid water meters raging in the media, which has been characterised by lack of adequate information for any individual to make an informed opinion on whether or not pre-paid water meters violate the right to access to water,” ZLHR spokesperson, Kumbirai Mafunda  said in the letter.

“As an organisation that works for the protection and promotion of rights, including the right to water, we hereby request all the pertinent information relating to the pre-paid water meter project so as to enable us as an organisation and as citizens likely to be affected, to meaningfully engage with the City Council and, or, take the legally available routes to protect the right to water.”

Mafunda said their request was consistent with Section 62 of the Constitution which provides that every Zimbabwean has the right of access to any information held by the government or its agencies at any level.

Mafunda added that so far, the information was required in the interests of public accountability and for the exercise or protection of a right.

Bulawayo residents, led by local civic society organisations last year took to the streets in protest against the council’s move to introduce prepaid water meters.

The local authority has already made its intention to pilot test prepaid water meters which they installed in Cowdray Park’s Hlalani Kuhle area before rolling them out to the rest of the city.

Bulawayo is the only city in Zimbabwe that has so far made a council resolution towards the implementation of the project.

Last week, three pensioners cited the constitutional provision in an urgent chamber application filed with the High Court to reinforce their argument that city council officials could not cut off their water supplies without a court order and without infringing on their basic right to clean, safe potable water

Mafunda gave the Bulawayo City Council seven days to respond.

On February 18, chamber secretary acknowledged receipt of Mafunda’s letter.

“We have sent the letter to various relevant departments for comment, we will come back to you as soon as we get feedback from them,” the chamber secretary’s letter says.

The ZLHR said their interest in the pre-paid water meters was purely part of their objective to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe as well as to encourage the growth and strengthening of human rights at all levels of Zimbabwean society through observance of the rule of law.

Comments (6)

everyone must hail the coming of prepaid water meters so as to avoid estimated bills. these human rights associations should research on water consumption patterns and tariff structures for households and advise the communities correctly. A typical case is that of the zesa prepaid electricity meters. its clear revenues for zesa have gone down after implementation of the prepaid meters and zesa is no longer willing to install them and they have gone on to hike tariffs contrary to all expectations.

gwabu - 3 March 2015

Water like Shelter is a basic human right. Electricity is a nice to have.

Galore 123 - 3 March 2015

ZLHR is just lost in the Zimbabwean mentality of wanting things for free. One of the reasons why service delivery by local authorities went down is failure by residents to pay for services rendered. Pre-paid meters are designed to eliminate the problem of consuming without payment, and must be hailed by any fair minded person. The fact that the water supplied is unclean or erratic does not remove responsibility of residents to pay for water consumed. Anyone who feels the water is dirty must shut the tap and pay nothing. The fact that water is a human right does not mean people should get it for free. What is ZLHR doing to ensure that rural people who walk 5km to fetch water get tap water from the homes?

makwinja - 3 March 2015

But that is the point, some rural folk have to walk for miles to get water for free, the urban poor dont have that priviledge. This pre-paid meter is not really going to affect the surbuban well to do, its in the townships where you can have 5 to 6 families sharing the same property.

Galore 123 - 4 March 2015

The ZLHR is on the wrong side on this one. Don't they buy all their food? Its just the same as paying for mealiemeal or meat. Its a human neccessity and this will help council revenue collection.

Professor of Law - 5 March 2015

ZLHR's position is before its time in Zimbabwe. Cholera outbreaks & other like epidemics will ensue watch this space.

Galore 123 - 5 March 2015

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