Residents up fight on prepaid water meters

BULAWAYO - Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has upped its fight against prepaid water meters by coming up with a position paper outlining its research findings on the controversial gadgets.

The organisation found that the prepaid system was at odds with Zimbabwe’s socio-economic and cultural context and would be problematic as the gadgets would lead to an affront on the right to water, particularly for poor people who would not always be able to purchase water before they access it.

The comprehensive 27-page document reveals that the prepaid system proposed by council has not been adequately researched on.

“The paper thus recommends that the city council should rescind its decision to introduce prepaid water meters.

“If need be, the prepaid system could be used for government and commercial entities as well as companies that use water for more than the basic requirements,” said BPRA coordinator Roderick Fayayo.

He said his organisation viewed water management systems and policies as very critical and requiring rigorous research and analysis because the utility is not only central to human life and dignity, but also recognised as a right under international law.

In its lengthy research carried out in October last year and finalised last week, Bpra says extensive literature review on use of prepaid water meters in other African countries was also carried out, with main focus on case studies in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda and Mozambique.

“As a stakeholder in local governance and service delivery in Bulawayo with an interest in protecting the welfare of the residents of Bulawayo, BPRA saw it fit to undertake research to ascertain the suitability of prepaid waters meters in Zimbabwe, particularly in Bulawayo.”

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) resolved to introduce prepaid water meters as a water management tool with the first pilot project in Cowdray Park’s Hlalani Kuhle/ Garikai area towards the end of 2013.

Savior Kasukuwere, Environment, Water and Climate minister is, however, in support of the prepaid water meters.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party runs most urban local authorities said; “Go and consult the people then explain why you are introducing those things and if they buy into it they will support it without any resistance.”

BCC public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu says the idea behind introducing prepaid meters was researched under the water demand management business proposal and also under the BCC water and waste master plans.

“These documents, which were adopted by council, guide the management of the BCC water and sanitation services in the next 20 years and beyond.

“They note the challenges which the city currently faces with the systems, makes recommendations for the development of the city and also outline the rehabilitation process of the water and sanitation infrastructure in Bulawayo,” Mpofu said.

Bpra said the key findings were that council’s decision to introduce prepaid water meters was inspired more by the need for cost recovery and the anticipation of improved revenue collection at the expense of the suffering residents.

“Evidently, the project does not augur well in the context of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic context where a large proportion of the populace is struggling to make ends meet owing to high unemployment and lack of or poor remuneration of workers,” it concluded.

Comments (4)

Countrymen we have to be very clear on some issues.City life has its demands and expectations and a certain fixed cost to make up your survival possible.Now if you cant afford to pay for your water bills then find alternative area for you to live that goes in hand with your status.We cant all be the same compatriots.it doesnt matter how good the document defends the idea that prepaid water system be implemented but the bottom line is on the cost of doing it.We cant postpone or delay implementation of a sober move because of some realities that we know have always existed and would always exist as part of nature.

carson macate - 27 March 2015

I agree with the writer who says if one cannot pay the basic demands of city life then beta to seek alternative location. you will find out that the majority of protestors are either lodgers who have the habit of not paying for their water bills and abandon them when they vacate. They couldbe those who shut and lock their gates and prevent meter readers. I think this will be a good move as everyone gets careful with water just like we are now with electricity.

Nutresco - 28 March 2015

@ previous commentators, whilst water services have to be paid for, BCC must ensure that at least 20 litres of water by at least 30 days are dispensed to every household on their BCC household register and that backdated to May 2013 when the right to water was constitutionalized. Disconnecting water without a Court Order as what BCC is doing is resorting to self help and COH in Harare was judicial advised not to do so as per the High Court judgment in Farai Mushoriwa vs. City of Harare (HC-4266-13). So when BCC which should know and act better resort to self help contrary to Court Orders and Ministerial pronouncements and directives and in violation of constitutional rights, residents are free to also reconnect the water supplies on their own using the same self help measures that BCC uses. That is why they are rushing to install prepaid water meters so that they can surreptiously violate the constitutional right to water. So unless the P-PWM are programmed to dispense at least the water an average person needs per day or month (as per UN/WHO standards) for FREE, they are UNCONSTITUTIONAL! But the said free litreage, when the taps are dry or when it is not exhausted in that particular month, must continuously be carried forward to the next month until it has been used up as constitutional rights and the benefits thereof should not expire or deemed to expire.

Maxwell Christian - 28 March 2015

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