In November last year we published Part 1 of our story on pre-paid water meters which focused on why Council were pushing through with this initiative. Part 2 examines what the various resident associations have to say.
The water meter debate is proving divisive among residents and their representative organisations.
Various reasons for the rejection of pre-paid water meters have been put forward by residents’ organisations such as the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) and the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA). Esther Chimanikire, the lobby and advocacy officer for HRT said that residents were rejecting pre-paid meters because water is a human right for every citizen regardless of economic or social status.
“In Section 77, Chapter Four of the Constitution, water is rightly identified as a human right which all Zimbabweans, institutions and the Government are supposed to respect…We cannot substitute water with anything as it is important for all household, health and, sanitation related issues,” said Chimanikire.
Chimanikire also said that residents were rejecting pre-paid water meters because the proposed metering system will among other things, close the door for citizen engagement with council when faced with economic hardship as well as exacerbate gender inequality. This latter point highlights the fact that in most families, women and children always bear the brunt of looking for alternative sources of water when it is not available. If pre-paid water meters are introduced, this will increase their burden.
“The HRT has held and attended stakeholders’ meetings outlining its position on pre-paid water meters but to our disappointment council continues to ignore our contributions and still maintains that it is going to carry out the program. It is shocking that we have a council that wants to pursue a policy that is not people-oriented,” added Chimanikire.
However, other residents’ organisations such as the Harare Residents Alliance (HARA) and the Zimbabwe Old People’s Organisation (ZOPO) are now in support of the pre-paid water metering system. In an interview during a smart water meter stakeholder meeting that was held in October, Israel Mabhoo from HARA said that most residents were now in support of the pre-paid water metering system.
“We have done various consultations with our members and it seems most residents are in support of the pre-paid water metering system as they believe it will bring an end to council’s unfair billing practices. But, we are now concerned with the free water threshold that council is willing to offer to all residents,” said Mabhoo.
Council in its presentation to residents during the stakeholder meeting said that it will not be able to offer any free threshold due to the fact that government is not able to subsidise water for residents. The municipality will stick to its current pricing regime of billing water based on a sliding scale which means lower prices for residents in high-density suburbs and higher prices for low-density dwellers.
Speaking at the same meeting, Pastor Clever Jangara, a member of Zimbabwe Old People’s Organisation (ZOPO), said that there was nothing wrong with pre-paid water meters as they will curb water abuse and ensure that the available water reaches all residents.
“I live in Hatfield and water does not reach our area. So I strongly feel that the introduction of pre-paid water meters will lead to us receiving water as people will be using it sparingly. The other advantage is that residents will be paying for water they consume rather than paying estimate bills that are currently being sent by council,” said Pastor Jangara.
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