Harare has begun a full roll out of pre-paid water meters following the completion of pilot projects in parts of Avondale, Sunningdale, Kambuzuma, Greendale, Bluffhill, and the Avenues.
As of September, Harare was owed in excess of $530 million by defaulters and the move to install pre-paid meters is meant to ensure that residents actually pay for water services. While presenting the 2017 Budget to council in September, Acting Finance and Development Committee chairperson, Councillor Luckson Mukunguma (Ward 25) said that the pre-paid water meter pilot project had been successful.
“The pilot project has amply demonstrated the feasibility and viability of smart metering, paving way for the full implementation of the same and in this regard, the full roll-out of the project is set to commence in October 2016. The introduction of smart meters is expected to mutually benefit Council and stakeholders in no small measure,” said Mukunguma.
However, residents such as Sharon Magodyo the training and publications officer for Harare Residents Trust (HRT) an organisation that has been lobbying for the abandonment of the project continues to reiterate that prepaid water meters are not favourable to residents.
“The decision to fully implement the project has been done without consulting residents. Citizenry participation is very important. Given that the council is a board which represents the residents and decisions should come from residents then they are tabled before the council for consideration before being implemented. Therefore the continued installation of prepaid water meters by City Council shows zero concern for citizens,” lamented Magodyo.
Board chairperson of the Combined Harare Residents Association Simbarashe Moyo concurred with Magodyo saying that residents were not adequately consulted on the decision to roll out the prepaid meters.
Other residents who have been using the pre-paid meters have also disputed the success story of the pre-paid water meter pilot project. Stembile Dzingirai (38) from the Avenues complained that the newly installed pre-paid meters often malfunction due to connectivity challenges.
“Many people are still experiencing challenges with the pre-paid water meters because they sometimes refuse to top-up credit. In other instances they just cut-off while there still is credit,” complained Dzingirai.
When contacted for comment about how City of Harare was addressing the challenges faced by residents during the pilot project, the City’s Acting Corporate Communications Manager Michael Chideme said simply, “The results of the challenges form part of the reason why going forward we will use the best meters [among the five shortlisted suppliers].”
In another development, council last month started installing 13,400 tamper-proof conventional water meters to replace non-functional meters in a move that is aimed to curb non-revenue water which is estimated to be accounting for 50% of the 450 million litres that is produced at Morton Jaffray.
“We are installing 7,500 conventional water meters in Kuwadzana, 4,500 in Belvedere and 400 conventional bulk water meters in CBD. The replacement programme is expected to last until December. The meters have a lifespan of up to five years (and) each meter costs an average of $60,” said Chideme.
When asked why conventional meters are being installed after the city has announced a city-wide move to prepaid meters, Chideme explained that the new tamper-proof meters are meant to immediately address the issue of non-revenue water while the prepaid meter project is a process which will take a long time to fully implement.
Image: A Harare resident inspects her newly installed pre-paid water meter.