City of Harare is going ahead with plans to privatize the supply of water to Harare, angering residents and community groups.
Documents seen by Harare News, show that the City of Harare has already submitted a letter consenting to the use of the name Harare Metropolitan Water Corporation (Private) Limited and had it registered with the Registrar of Companies.
In 2014 City of Harare mandated a taskforce composed of representatives from eight government bodies including the Ministries of Environment and Local Government, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), and local authorities from Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton, Ruwa, and Epworth, to lead the registration process.
The company will initially provide water to Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton, Ruwa and Epworth, and later add Zvimba, Mount Hampden, Juru, Mazowe, Goromonzi, Beatrice and Nyabira.
It will be jointly owned by Harare City Council, Chitungwiza Municipality, Norton Town Council, the Ruwa and Epworth Local Boards.
This new development has not been well-received by Harare residents who strongly object to the privatization of water delivery citing among other things the potential for reduced transparency, and humanitarian concerns.
“They seem to have disregarded our concerns. Water is a basic human right that must not be commercialized since it can lead to the outbreak of diseases,” said Mavis Marima from Glen View. Fellow resident Norest Machokoto from Ruwa accused Government of ignoring a clear violation of residents’ rights.
Community Water Harare programs manager, Hardlife Mudzingwa, says the privatization of water will not address the underlying causes of the water crisis in Zimbabwe. “Privatization will only breed a new kind of apartheid where segregation on the basis of financial capacity will become prevalent in water provision,” said Mudzingwa.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director, Precious Shumba, emphasized that privatization does not build accountability or transparency in the management and governance of resources.
“The main argument being pushed by the proponents of privatization of water is the motive of profit and the payment of water bills by residents, yet they are refusing to account for the limited resources at their disposal from the fixed and consumption charges that residents continue to pay council,” said Shumba.
Mike Davies, Director of SMART Harare (formerly Harare Municipality Services) believes water is a social good that cannot be commodified adding that a government is formed to address issues that cannot be dealt with privately.
“If you provide water on the basis of price, people who can’t afford water will resort to bad practice which has a disease risk that affects the entire community,” said Davies. He added that there is not one example the world over where privatization of water has resulted in better delivery, and urged City of Harare to disclose every detail for transparency purposes.
Commenting on the issue, Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said that the resolution for privatization was made in a full council meeting but that it is not clear if there has been progress to that effect.
Also commenting on the matter to Harare News was Acting Town Clerk, Josephine Ncube, who said that privatisation will result in better service delivery given that residents will have to pay upfront.