The Sunday Mail
Harare City Council has disregarded a High Court order to halt water disconnections for defaulting customers and has instead launched a massive operation that has cut-off supplies to over 11 000 domestic and industrial debtors in less than two months.
Information gathered by The Sunday Mail shows that since the beginning of this month, at least 6 572 defaulters have had their water supplies cut-off by the local authority in defiance of the High Court ruling made in May this year
In passing the ruling, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu outlawed Section 8 of the Water By-law Statutory Instrument 164 of 1913 which empowered local authorities to cut-off water supplies arbitrarily in the absence of a court order. He said the water by-law statutory instrument breached Section 77 of the constitution which classified clean water and food as a basic right.
The ruling was made after Harare lawyer Mr Farai Mushoriwa had approached the High Court challenging the legality of Harare City Council’s water supply disconnection to his flat over a $1 600 debt.
However, in clear violation of the High Court, Harare City Council has cut-off water supplies to nearly 11 511 defaulters since October.
Mr Mushoriwa said the local authority should abide by the court order.
“What the city council is doing is wrong and illegal. If someone owes you money, you should sue them and take them to court,” Mushoriwa said.
“They were advised by the court that their by-laws are illegal and there was need to amend them so that they are in line with the constitution.”
But the city’s corporate communications department said the disconnections were pushed by the increase in the number of defaulters, a situation that is crippling water treatment.
“People must realise that for them to get clean water they must pay for it. Thus, the City of Harare’s responsibility to supply water can only materialise if funded by the consumers.
“If measures are not taken to ensure that water is paid for, one day we will wake up to a dry Harare so we want to avoid that,” said the city’s corporate communication division.
The local authority is currently owed over $281 million despite writing off all previous debts last year in July.