Harare gets prepaid  water in January

Harare gets prepaid water in January

Debra Matabvu
“We also understand the system is going to use electricity. Does this means that if we have no power for 72 hours, we will not also have water for 72 hours?
The Harare City Council has postponed its pre-paid water meter pilot project to January 2016.
City officials initially hinted that the pilot phase would commence in October 2015, targeting consumers in the Avenues area, Central Business District and Milton Park.
Indications are that the pilot project could now be widened, with full installation starting next March.
The rollout delay was because engineers revised initial specifications to include a local data concentrator that uses radio signals to communicate with a server at the main water station.
Other specifications are a facility adjusting water pressure to suit consumers’ different needs.
Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Micheal Chideme said: “The pilot project has not begun because we are still concluding the adjudication process (to determine meter suppliers).”
However, some sources say the adjudication process was finalised and winners will be announced soon.
“The pilot project will now start in January due to the delays of the adjudication process. However the process is over now and the winners will be announced soon,” said a council source. There is now probability of including other suburbs in the pilot project.”
Prepaid water meters will ensure consumers pay for water before using it as opposed to the prevailing situation where the local authority bills users after a month’s consumption.
Introduction of pre-paid water meters was mooted early this year, triggering an uproar as consumers argued that this was unconstitutional because the supreme law guarantees the right to water.
Section 77 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution says every person has the “right to safe, clean and potable water, and (b) sufficient food and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measure, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right”.
Human rights watchdogs say that right was negated when someone failed to pay for water in advance.
Activists argue that various international conventions make water an inalienable right and demanding payments first will hit the poor hard.
Harare Residents Trust spokesperson Ms Easter Chimanikire said: “We understand there is no provision for free water in the new system; what happens when there is a fire and one has insufficient credit to put out the fire? Properties and lives will be lost unnecessarily.
“We also understand the system is going to use electricity. Does this means that if we have no power for 72 hours, we will not also have water for 72 hours?
“Research by some organisations indicates that prepaid water meters need a constant supply of water for them to function properly. Will they still be working two months down the line given that most residential areas in Harare do not have water?”
In South Africa, where the system was introduced in 2009, there is a Free Basic Water Access policy.
Johannesburg Municipality says it saved R800 million in the 2013-14 period via prepaid water.

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