ZINWA BILLS SCANDAL TO BE EXPOSED

HA ZINWA BILL SCANDAL TO BE EXPOSED
 

The Minister of Water resources and Infrastructural development Engineer Munacho Mutezo has directed the ZINWA board to investigate allegations by residents of inconsistent and inflated bills.

The directive comes in the wake of a country wide out cry that ZINWA is overcharging residents. Residents in most parts of Harare have for the last two months been receiving bills ranging from 5 million to 40 million dollars. The minister stated that it was highly abnormal for a family in a high density or low density suburb to receive a bill of 40 million dollars for water.  The high bills are also in violation of the governments’ policy on price controls, said the Minister. Engineer Mutezo warned that all those who have been benefiting from swindling residents risk being arrested.

 

It remains to be seen whether anyone will be brought to book. The government of Zimbabwe is known for neglecting corruption. The entire central government system is rotten with corruption. CHRA has for the last few years been campaigning for the reversal of the cabinet decision empowering ZINWA to takeover sewer and water services from local authorities. CHRA continues to lobby the cabinet and the parliament of Zimbabwe to stop the madness created by ZINWA. There is ample evidence that ZINWA cannot manage water affairs in Zimbabwe and that it is hopelessly incompetent. The Association continues to reject the takeover of sewer and water services for the following reasons:

 

Local authorities are set to loose a monthly revenue base of between 40-70 % due to the takeover. This will further result in the decline of service delivery by Local authorities which are already failing to cope with the hyper inflationary environment. The quality of water services offered in Harare is a case in point. The Harare municipality lost 40% revenue base, more than 100 vehicles and office space due to the takeover.

 

The Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) provided residents an opportunity to object rate increases. Residents are given an opportunity to send objections or comments to the local authorities if they feel the rates are too high. Under the ZINWA Act (Chapter 20:25) it is up to the Minister to decide whether the increases are justified of not, for example, in May 2006 the City of Harare increased water charges and residents managed to have the decision rescinded after residents sent objections. In the case of the ZINWA take over there is no framework for consultation. In September 2007 residents received ballooned bills with massive increases but had no platform to challenge these increases.  

 

Water is a basic human right and thus it should be respected. The ZINWA Act (Chapter 20:25) states clearly that in the event of non-payment of fees owed to ZINWA the body is empowered to disconnect water services. The government must take into cognizance the economic melt down that has reduced over 80% of the population poor.

 

The increases in service charges of over 1600% by ZINWA in the City of Harare since September 2007 are unjustified considering that there is no visible improvement in water supply and administration. Residents and business continue to be plagued by water cuts as ZINWA fails to meet the daily consumption of Harare. CHRA fears that this will translate into a national crisis further impoverishing the poor people of our country who form more that 80% of the population.

 

Raw sewer continues to find itself to water bodies in the City of Harare, pushing up water treatment costs passed on to the residents. Further, some chemicals are not being procured, a situation which poses serious health threat to residents in Harare.

 

CHRA is concerned over the excessive interference by politicians in the running of local authorities and making of this decision by the Politburo. More significantly ZINWA’s has a demonstrated pathetic record and lacks capacity; serve for political manipulation to feed the interests of a few.

 

Below are some of our recommendations;

 

The Minister should immediately reverse and halt the continued acquisition of sewer and water supply and administration from local authorities, as the case for Harare has shown no improvement for the better. The situation is actually worsening.

 

There is need for a clear consultative framework for water increases. The Urban Council Act (Chapter 29:15) was not even sufficient in this regard. The Association calls for an urgent reform and constitutionalisation of local governance in the country.  

 

The Minister of Water Resources and Infrastructural Development should reign over the insanity created by multi billing.

 

ZINWA should focus on development of dams and supply of bulky water i.e. Kunzwi dam project in Harare and the Mutshabezi dam project in Bulawayo. Major projects which are lying idle.

 

Local Authorities and Residents Associations should initiate and lodge legal challenges against the takeover. Local authorities are empowered under Part X111 of the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29:15) (i) to provide and maintain a supply of water within or outside the council area.

 

CHRA encourages Residents Associations countrywide to be vigilant and resist the takeover of ZINWA. CHRA is committed to resisting the takeover and to advocate for effective, accountable and local governance. The Association has coordinated the formation of the National Water Taskforce which seeks to challenge the takeover. The Association will continue to mobilize residents and other stakeholders to resist or reverses the takeover. – Farai Barnabas Mangodza  

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