Pensioners cry foul over water disconnections

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THREE Bulawayo pensioners have taken the city council to court for alleged arbitrary water disconnections at their residencies, saying they are being deprived of the right to access clean water because they are pensioners.

CHIEF REPORTER

Peter Frank Sibanda, Paul Phiri (64) and Douglas Sibanda (62), through their lawyers TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, lodged an urgent court application last week.

The applicants said they were seeking a declaratory order that affirms their right to safe, clean and portable water.

The council, they said, only sent correspondence to them detailing “steps to take in order to have water supplies reconnected or restored” adding that they had resorted to unsafe sources and facilities.

According to his founding affidavit, Peter of Block 44/1401 Mpopoma said he has been a Bulawayo resident since 1945 and has an outstanding water and rates bill amounting to $191,63.

Council officials had this week said they were disconnecting water supplies to residents who owe more than $200, defying a High Court ruling.

Peter retired from National Railways of Zimbabwe in 2008 and resides with his daughter and eight grandchildren.

He said on 11 February, unilaterally and without prior notice, council official cut water supplies to his premises.

“(The) unilateral and arbitrary disconnection of water by the respondent without a court order is unlawful and constitutes an unreasonable infringement on our right to a safe, clean and portable water as enshrined in Section 77(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No 20) Act 2013,” Peter argued.

“Respondent (council) levies charges for the supply of water to residents. To date, I have an outstanding water and rates bill amounting to $191,63.

“By virtue of being a pensioner with a limited flow of finances, I am struggling to pay this bill.

“I, however, strive as much as I can to pay it off within the limits of my resources. I must hasten to say when I was still in active employ, I would always pay my bills and was up to date with such payments.”

Peter argued that even if he owed council, it was not an excuse for them to cut water supplies.

“Respondent (council) should not resort to self-help by trampling on my constitutionally guaranteed right to safe, clean and portable water,” he said.

“Put differently, I am being penalised for being a pensioner, for being of old age, for being out of active employment on account of my advanced age, for being no longer in a position to fend for myself,” he said.

“Those of a different social and economic status to me are not subjected to the same treatment of having their water supplies cut off.”

Both Phiri and Douglas raised similar arguments.