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Residents reject pre-paid water meters

RESIDENTS of Harare have rejected the introduction of pre-paid water meters by the Harare City Council, saying the move was a recipe for a health disaster as more people will succumb to water-borne diseases.

BY DALPHINE TAGWIREYI

The Harare City Council last week announced plans to embark on a project to install pre-paid water meters, starting with the Avenues area, to give consumers power to manager their own consumption.

The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) rejected the installation of pre-paid water meters, saying the move was a profit-making project for the local authority which would not address the residents’ needs.

“Pre-paid water meters represent the total hijacking of a human right by city bureaucrats who are only concerned with increasing revenue inflows instead of addressing its billing system, which has given residents nightmares,” said HRT director, Precious Shumba.

“We reject this apparent profit- making project in its totality, and will only express a different view once we have sufficient information on the benefits that will accrue to residents.”

Harare Water director, Eng Christopher Zvobgo, said the project was aimed at encouraging residents to pay their bills.

Council intends to install 1 000 pre-paid water meters in the Avenues and later expand to other suburbs, depending on the success of the pilot project.

Shumba said the introduction of prepaid water meters should be viewed as part of the measures by city management to privatise the council’s water department, in a move that will replace workers with technology.

There are fears that there would soon be an outbreak of water-borne diseases, such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid as residents resort to unprotected water sources because they would not be able to afford the cost of running water.

Over 4 000 people, mostly from Harare, succumbed to cholera in 2008/9, after going for several days without running water.

The Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) and other relevant stakeholders on Friday held a consultative meeting in Kuwadzana where residents rejected the local authority project.

The project is set to be launched in the suburb soon.

Doreen Chigova of Kuwadzana 5 said the community needed more boreholes, rather than pre-paid meters.

“The government should be installing more boreholes because we don’t have enough water points at the present moment, our dire need is water but they want to introduce irrelevant meters, we are already suffering with the Zesa pre-paid meters,” she said.

The power utility (Zesa) early this year introduced pre-paid meters, and as a result some households have no power because they cannot afford it. They have resorted to using firewood poached from peri-urban areas.

Mirirayi Shoko of Kuwadzana 1 suburb said: “This is an unfair imposition and we as consumers were not consulted first.”

“It will be very difficult because some of us only get money at the end of any given month, hence if I use up my budgeted consumption, what then will I do?”

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