Water disconnections: HCC defies court ruling

HARARE - The Harare City Council (HCC) which has continued to disconnect residents’ water is acting in contempt of court following a High Court ruling by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu outlawing all water disconnections.

Bhunu described Section 8 of the water by-law under statutory instrument (SI) 164 of 1913 which gives local authorities the power to disconnect defaulting residents, as illegal as it was ultra vires the new Constitution.

Section 8 of the water by-law contravenes section 77 of the constitution which classifies clean water and food as basic rights.

HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme however says water is not for free.

“Water provision in a municipal area has a cost to it. The cost has to be borne by the consumer and in this case the Harare resident. It is unimaginable and unrealistic to suggest that council should provide free water,” Chideme said.

This comes after residents complained that the local authority was inflating their water bills even for periods when they were disconnected.

Chideme defended the position saying water in a municipal area has a cost to it which is why council issues a composite bill that includes water, refuse collections, rates and sewer charges.

HCC lost more than $300 million in revenue when minister of local Government Ignatius Chombo cancelled all outstanding bills during the run up to the 2013 elections.

As of December 2014, HCC was owed $331 million by different categories of debtors, which includes government.

Fifty-two percent of the debt is from rates and supplementary charges while the remaining 42 percent comes from water and sewer.

Despite an incentive by council to credit five percent into residents’ accounts, the city has failed to account for the debt.

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