ZINWA accused of installing pre-paid water meters without consulting residents

Residents in Hwange’s Empumalanga suburb are up in arms with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) accusing it of installing pre-paid meters without consultations.

The authority recently embarked on a prepaid water meter installation programme targeting suburbs under Hwange Local Board.

Residents accuse the water authority of installing prepaid water meters without input from them arguing the move was meant to deprive poor households from accessing water.

“This move by ZINWA has shocked us and we are in protest over it,” said one emotionally charged resident who identified herself as MaSiwela.  

“The installation of pre-paid meters with our consent is a violation of our rights to accessing social services. We have been having a lot of problems with them from the dubious billing system to failure to deliver on their mandate and now we have this issue. This is not right; it’s taking us for granted yet we are the rate payers. This is part of the reasons why we petitioned ZINWA to return the control of water supplies to the Council.”

Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) blasted ZINWA for imposing projects on rate payers before carrying out extensive consultations.

“Greater Whange Residents Trust is opposed to the manner that ZINWA is rolling out the installation of pre-paid meters; ZINWA is installing these gadgets without the consent of the residents and taking away old conventional water meters. We still insist that there should be extensive consultations on pre-paid meters not to railroad the residents into pre-paid meters,” said the trust’s coordinator, Fidelis Chima.

He added that their rejection in big cities was a clear indication that they were anti-poor and in violation of access to water provision. 

He added: “In Bulawayo, Harare and other big cities, pre-paid meters were rejected for a number of reasons, they are anti-poor people and a violation of the right to water and there is enough literature which supports that pre-paid meters should be rejected by residents. In South Africa, in a poor township of Aphiri, residents won a court application against pre-paid meters and Bolivia’s pre-paid system was reversed.”

Ward 6 councilor, Andrew Mumpande, whose area covers Empumalanga phase 3 popularly known as DRC said the move was likely to result in dry taps as some struggling residents would fail to buy the commodity.

“One disadvantage is that when you don’t have money for water you will totally go dry, while secondly the meters may not give you proper reading to the point of getting what you paid for,” said Cllr Mumpande.

He queried where ZINWA officers were taking residents’ old meters arguing that there were fears they were being sold to metal dealers.

“Another issue is that those ZINWA people are collecting people’s old meters claiming that those meters are a ZINWA property when every consumer bought those meters privately. How can those meters become ZINWA property? The residents are thinking that those officials who are collecting old meters want to sell those metal meters somewhere. If it’s that, then it’s being unfaithful on the part of those officials. Residents want their old meters back.”

ZINWA corporate communications and marketing manager, Marjorie Munyonga dismissed residents’ accusations that they had not been consulted as untrue.

“ZINWA has commenced the roll out of prepaid water meters in Hwange, targeting households, businesses and institutions,” said Munyonga.

“The installation of prepaid water meters is however not peculiar to Hwange but is being done in other centres where ZINWA supplies treated water such as Karoi, Murehwa, Nyanga, Chivhu and Mvurwi. To date 4 000 prepaid water meters have since been installed countrywide. Prior to the installation of these meters, ZINWA is holding consultative meetings with stakeholders; inclusive of residents associations and where numbers permit, individual residents. In the case of Hwange such a consultative meeting was held on November 10, 2021 and was attended by stakeholders that included representatives of the Hwange Local Board, Greater Hwange Residents Association, Hwange Residents Association, Councillors and representatives of the business community and Government Departments.”

She said consumers should not be worried about being deprived of their rights to access water arguing that it would give them control over water usage.

“Prepaid water meters will not in any way deprive people of their right and access to water. Prepaid water meters in fact give water users greater control of their water use as they are able to use water in tandem with their budget. These meters help strike a balance between affordability of and access to water. In addition, the tariffs have remained the same as those on the post-paid system hence there is neither deprivation nor discrimination. The tariff is already designed with a pro-poor band that provides for a low price of water for those using up to 10 cubic meters of water per month.”

ZINWA says the roll out of the prepaid water meter system will enhance service delivery as resources that have been used in the past for functions such as meter reading and statements delivery, will now be channelled towards the improvement of service.

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