THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has with immediate effect resumed water disconnections for defaulting residents, advising them to settle their bills.
Council’s action comes at a time when it has a pending Supreme Court appeal against Justice Chinembiri Bhunu’s High Court ruling that disconnecting water to force residents to pay their bills was a violation of the Constitution and, therefore, unlawful.
The local authority had stopped the practice, but has now resolved to start following up on defaulters through cutting their water supplies.
Bulawayo mayor Martin Moyo said council had no better way to enforce payment and cutting off supplies would prompt people to honour their obligations.
“The only option would be to take people to court and we don’t want to take that route against people,” he said.
“In any case, once we take that option, we lose control of the situation and have to also watch from the sidelines as the messenger of court carries out their duties, which might not be as friendly a process as we want.”
The mayor said the disconnections were not in defiance of the High Court ruling since there was a pending case at a higher court.
“The ruling is being challenged at the Supreme Court and since that case is pending, our legal advisors informed us that the decision is also suspended,” he said.
“We check what is happening with our counterparts so as not to be out of line and City of Harare has also challenged the ruling because people are not paying.
“How else do you arrest this problem?
“The disconnections will start, with the worst case scenarios while we encourage everybody else to regularise their accounts, which will be effective because once people see our teams patrolling their areas, they will rush to check their own accounts.”
Bulawayo United Residents’ Association chairperson Winos Dube, however, expressed dismay at the exercise indicating that the appeal at the Supreme Court left residents exposed.
“The scenario is disturbing because when water is disconnected for people, there is no life to talk about,” he said.
“We do not encourage people not to pay because we understand local authorities need the money to provide services.
“Our advice would be for people to pay whatever they can afford while we ask for council’s leniency and understanding.
“The truth is that people are not failing to pay on purpose but the economic challenges are forcing these defaults.”