City of Harare last month embarked on a verification exercise to weed out illegal water connections. Tynwald, Mabelreign, and Marlborough are the first areas to be blitzed.
Illegal water connections are a problem in Harare as indicated by the City’s water reports which state that 60% of the 400 million litres of water being produced by the City is unaccounted for. Half of the unaccounted for water is said to be lost due to pipe leakages while the remaining half is attributed to illicit siphoning by residents.
Michael Chideme, the City’s acting corporate communications manager, said that preliminary results in Tynwald, Mabelreign, and Marlborough indicate that 630 properties have illegal water connections.
“The exercise was prompted by the discovery that not all the properties in the three suburbs were registered on the City’s billing database. In some instances some of the residents had not completed the City’s registration formalities for water connections while others had not even attempted to register with council,” said Chideme.
Chideme also revealed that those found guilty of siphoning council water will be fined $430, billed for all consumed water as shown on their water meter as well as a paying a further penalty of 30% of the illegally consumed water.
“Illegally connecting to municipal water is theft. So we are encouraging homeowners to voluntarily give divulge their illegal connections. Residents who comply will be allowed to enter into payment arrangements to offset their municipal debts,” explained Chideme.
National coordinator for the Community Water Alliance Timothy Chitambure welcomed the verification process saying that this vindicates his organisation’s position that the solution to water problems lay in the reduction of unaccounted for water.
“Our position is coming out clear now that pre-paid water meters are not the solution. The solution lies in dealing with unaccounted for treated water. Furthermore, we’d like to ask council why have residents been able to connect themselves on stands that are known to council?” queried Chitambure.
Chitambure added that his organisation did not condone illegal connections, but encouraged council to improve its water distribution planning.
“We are also guided by a Human Rights Based Approach which stipulates that there is need to interrogate the problem and its causes, and look at the situation to verify whether illegal connections are a symptom, a cause or a problem,” added Chitambure.
Residents also welcomed the move saying that all residents should commit to their bill-paying obligations. Tatenda Mhere (45) from Highfield said that illegal water connections were rampant in most suburbs, prejudicing council of much-needed money to buy water treatment chemicals.
“It is really selfish to steal water when other residents are paying their bills. This process is long overdue and council should make sure that they impose deterrent fines to avoid repeat offenders,” said Mhere.
Image: Unregulated water flowing down a street in Harare.