At least 80 percent of properties in Harare’s Central Business District have not been paying water bills, leaving the burden to a few loyal residents, it has been learnt. The situation has forced council to dip into the rates accounts to meet the water treatment bill. It also emerged that after building houses, many residents did not apply for certificates of occupation for the properties to be entered into the city database.
Most residents have not been playing their part with the local authority collecting only $1,52 million a month instead of the expected $5,6 million. This has resulted in the city’s chemical suppliers debt ballooning to over $5,5 million.
The situation has seen the city resorting to installing prepaid water meters on all properties in the CBD and on properties of residents who are illegally connected. The city will also use the smart meters on properties of residents who illegally reconnect themselves after having their water supplies disconnected.
Acting town clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube yesterday confirmed that most properties in the CBD were defaulting and as a result, the city would install pre-paid water meters in the CBD.
“Most companies in the CBD are not paying for water. They are getting it free of charge. We want to make sure that we will roll out the prepaid water programme soon. “Our water account is feeling the strain. Most of the water meters in the CBD are stuck, so we are going the pre-paid way. Some of the companies who had their water supplies cut for non-payment had also reconnected themselves,” she said.
She said unless residents paid for water, the city could not continue providing the service. Mrs Ncube said residents were misconstruing the High Court judgment, which barred local authorities from disconnecting water supplies without a court order to mean that councils must provide water for free.
“As we speak, the rates account is subsidising the water account. We are all out to make sure that all those with illegal connections or those who reconnected after having their water supplies cut after defaulting have prepaid water meters installed on their properties,” she said.
The city’s acting corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme, said council had already identified the properties and was in the in the process of securing meters for the CBD roll out.
“We want everyone to pay for their water so that we are in a position to fund investments in the water sector. We also realised that there is a high usage of water in the CBD as most properties are occupied by a lot more people who are engaged in small businesses.”
“The smart water meter is one of our measures of guaranteeing revenue collection,” he said. The city recently rolled out a prepaid pilot project in Sunningdale, Bluffhill, Kambuzuma, Greendale, Avenues and Picnic Park.
The suburbs were used as pilots to analyse how smart water meters work. A director of one of the companies carrying out the pilot Mr Moses Mpofu of Utility Systems, which is working in conjunction with Synlak (Private) Limited, said progress had been made with little resistance in most areas.
“We have found out that those who are resisting are not aware of how the system works. After we install the gadgets at some houses they will call us to install on their properties after learning how the pre-paid system works.
“We would like to encourage those who might have resisted but later learnt of the new system to feel free to contact the city. Since it is a pilot we are still able to come back,” he said. herald