Council under fire over meters

“It’s no longer the wholesale kind of project where each and every resident is bulldozed into having a pre-paid water meter,”

THE BULAWAYO Progressive Residents’ Association (Bpra) has challenged the city council’s move to install prepaid water meters saying the system discriminates against the poor.

Nqobile Bhebhe
Chief Reporter

This follows council’s plans to introduce prepaid water meters starting with Cowdray Park as a way of forcing residents to pay their bills on time.

But residents’ associations across the country believe that the move would infringe on residents’ right to water.

Council early this year launched a pilot project that sought to install about 1 000 prepaid water meters in Cowdray Park, a move that pressure groups in the city had lobbied against.

In a petition dated August 28 and copied to council top management, Bpra advocacy and programmes manager Emmanuel Ndlovu said studies on use of prepaid water meters showed that the system did not work well in poor communities such as Cowdray Park.

Ndlovu said poor people would be forced to use less water than they need for a healthy life, leading to outbreaks of diseases.

“It goes without saying that Cowdray Park consists of mainly people in the lower income bracket who may not always be able to purchase water on credit,” reads part of the petition.

“It is Bpra’s contention that it would thus make more sense to introduce the gadgets in high income areas where people can afford.

“The Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association has handed in its submissions on prepaid water meters to the Bulawayo City Council in anticipation of debate on installation of the gadgets that is expected to take place at the next full council meeting next Wednesday.

“In its submission, the association advises councillors and bureaucrats in the local authority that introduction of prepaid water meters would be retrogressive as it would flout the right to water and convert water into a commodity.

“Bpra expects the issue of prepaid water meters to be on the agenda at the Wednesday meeting.”

The association says the local authority did not consult residents before making the decision to introduce the system.

“Consultations by the association in Cowdray’s Park Hlalani Kuhle area have also revealed that the people residing there do not want prepaid water meters,” Bpra said.

“Instead they want water connected to their homes so that they do not have to walk long distances or wait long hours in queues to collect water.”

Meanwhile, council’s temporary water rationing has spread to more western suburbs after Emganwini and Nketa went without water for several days last week.

On Friday council said the temporary measures were due to reservoir cleaning at the Criterion Clear Water Supply Reservoir which is expected to end on Friday.

“This has resulted in council having to initiate temporary water shedding up to Tuesday the 2nd of September 2014,” council said in a statement.

“Water-shedding has been effected in the following areas- Nketa, Nkulumane, and Emganwini with immediate effect so as to build up Magwegwe Reservoir level.

“Regrettably, all the western suburbs will not have water until the situation improve.”