BULAWAYO City Council’s decision to abandon plans to impose water meters on ratepayers has been cautiously welcomed by residents who want the local authority to go a step further and withdraw a resolution paving the way for the gadgets.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Mayor Martin Moyo told Southern Eye on Tuesday that the council had shelved plans to install the meters, but said residents who still wanted the gadgets were free to get them from the local authority for $250.
The council faced resistance from resident who argued the gadgets would make water unaffordable especially for the poor. Civil society last year led protests against installation of water meters.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (Bpra) information manager, Zibusiso Dube, said although the council U-turn was good news, it was too early to celebrate.
“We remain concerned that the resolution on prepaid water meters in terms of the full council meeting of December 4 2013 is still in place,” he said. “We thus call upon council to take a step further and rescind that resolution on introduction of prepaid water meters.
“Bpra is worried that residents remain vulnerable as long as they lack adequate information on such issues that have a possibility of affecting their lives,” Dube said in an interview yesterday.
“It would be prudent for the Bulawayo City Council to open up on actual plans on the metering project and make available all requisite information regarding the project, whether shelved or not, or be it optional or compulsory.”
The council had defended prepaid meters saying they were necessary to force residents to pay bills. The council is owed millions of dollars by ratepayers and its operations have been severely crippled by lack of cash.
Introduction of prepaid water meters was expected to boost council’s coffers and manage the city’s scarce water resources.
However, recent research by Bpra indicated residents were not paying bills because they could not afford and it was not given that the meters would persuade them into buying water.
Bpra recommended that council should explore other sources of revenue instead of resorting to prepaid water meters.
“It should be clear that Bpra’s position is not that residents should not pay for water,” part of the Bpra recommendations read. “The position is against the notion of paying upfront by the poor who are unable to.”
Last year, Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere instructed local authorities to introduce prepaid water meters to increase revenue collection, despite objections from residents.