Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Beitbridge residents have petitioned the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to abandon plans to activate bulk prepaid meters, with residents associations arguing that the meters will worsen the already dire water supplies.
Instead they want the meters at household level to ensure adequate money is spent on water each week.
Beitbridge Residents Association, Beitbridge Urban Residents Association, and the Beitbridge Progressive Residents and Rate Payers Development Trust said:
“We write this letter to register our strong disagreement with your stated intention to activate, with immediate effect, the bulk prepaid water meters per your letter to Beitbridge Municipality on December 24,” reads part of the petition.
“The town’s water demand averages 15 000 cubic metres daily, and the municipality is currently paying Zinwa $3 million weekly 30 percent is going towards debt recovery, thereby leaving the available balance to buy prepaid water tokens at $1,7 million enough to buy 13 789 cubic meters weekly.
“If we then factor in the current non-revenue water loss of 40 percent, we are left with 8273 cubic meters against a weekly requirement of 75 000 cubic meters.”
The residents said under Zinwa’s proposed set-up, the town will only manage to have 11 percent of its weekly demand.
In addition, the community is arguing that a water crisis in the town will result in water bone diseases, including typhoid and cholera.
They said women were likely to bear the brunt of the water shortages as they will have to walk long distances to access the water at the few boreholes or even be susceptible to sexual abuse as they roam the town round the clock in search of water.
A member of the Beitbridge Urban Residents Association, Ms Lucia Khumalo said: “This proposed system will affect those who are fully servicing bills since it will be a blanket approach.
“Let them allow or assist the local authority to install prepaid water meters at the household level.”
Another resident, Mr Emmanuel Takutaku, said the move by Zinwa was inconsistent with the people’s rights to access to safe and clean drinking water as enshrined in the Constitution.
The battle to control water reticulation facilities in Beitbridge between Zinwa and the Beitbridge Municipality has been raging for nearly a decade.
In 2017, the municipality threatened legal action against Zinwa for installing the meters without their consent, but the issue was later resolved out of court.
At the same time, the council has taken Zinwa to court contesting another debt of $140 million.
The local authority is arguing that most of the debt accrued from non-revenue water.
Zinwa last week re-activated the prepaid water meters at the main tank (northern), Tower, Vhembe, and Genta with a supply of one week and advised the local authority to make necessary payments to ensure undisrupted supplies.
In a public notice yesterday, Beitbridge Municipality said:
“Whilst, the municipality is engaging Zinwa, stakeholders and residents are urged to take note of this new development as the town will only be able to receive bulk water from Zinwa upon full payment.
“The local authority is calling on residents to settle their bills on time so as to avoid service interruption.”
Beitbridge town clerk, Mr Loud Ramakgapola, recently said they were owed $196 million by ratepayers and $117 million of that is for billed water services.