Monday 25 September 2017


THE Supreme Court has reserved judgement in the case in which Harare City was contesting a High Court decision preventing the local authority from disconnecting water supplies without seeking recourse to the courts of law.

The appeal by Harare follows a landmark ruling in May 2014, which described as unlawful Section 8 of the Water By-law Statutory Instrument 164 of 1913 that empowers local authorities to cut off water supplies arbitrarily without a court order. Harare lawyer Mr Farai Mushoriwa had sued the city council for disconnecting water at his apartment in town.

In its argument, Harare argued through its lawyer, Mr Firoz Girach, instructed by Mr Charles Kwaramba of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni, argued that water disconnection was the only practical way through which councils can force consumers to pay debts.

Without that mechanism, the lawyer argued, councils would collapse. It was also argued on behalf of council that the services that the rate payers enjoy come at a cost.

“No persons must be allowed to enjoy the services if they are not prepared to fulfil their obligations and responsibility to meet the costs of the services,” said the lawyer.

Harare also argued that the water by-law that empowers local authorities to cut off water 
supplies arbitrarily without a court order was valid. To this end, council implored the court to allow the appeal.

But in his counter submission, Advocate Thabani Mpofu acting for Mr Mushoriwa, said the Urban Councils Act only gives the right to terminate water supplies if any amount is actually due and not where there is a reasonable dispute.

In this case, Adv Mpofu said, Mr Mushoriwa did not owe council anything, but the local authority bungled administratively and saddled him with a bill that was not his.
“It is important that where there is a dispute, council must get an order of the court first,” he said.

“The water by-laws are invalid because they are contrary to the statutes — Urban Councils Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

Adv Mpofu further argued that assuming the by-laws were valid still there is a notification procedure that should be adhered to.

In his landmark ruling, then High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu ruled that the by-law was an illegal instrument drafted by municipal authorities contrary to the Constitution and the enabling statute. He said the tendency of disconnecting water supplies without the blessings of the courts was tantamount to self-help by the municipality and a disregard of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Herald


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