The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is contemplating introducing flow-limiter devices restricting households that fail to pay rates to a mere five kilolitres of water per day as opposed to water disconnections to avoid litigation.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Council has, on several occasions, come under attack from rights groups and residents’ associations after disconnecting water to households over outstanding rates, arguing water is a human right.
The High Court has ruled that water disconnections by councils, without a court order, contravened sections 77 and 44 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to safe and clean water.
According to a latest council’s future water supplies and water action report, the local authority sees installing flow limiters as the only option to avoid litigation after cutting supplies over unpaid debts.
“The matter was considered and the director of engineering services [Simela Dube] explained that because of the current challenges, there was need to look at the proposal to use flow limiters instead of disconnections as a water management strategy.
“The device restricts one’s consumption to predetermined levels of supply, and it is most useful to those residents who cannot afford to pay their bills. The device will restrict them to an allocation of five kilolitres; specific water meters would need to be installed as the old water meters are not suitable for this exercise,” the report read.
“The chamber secretary [Sikhangele Zhou] advised that the proposed device would assist residents to manage their free allocation of five kilolitres without raising the ire of water as a human rights issue, as it would ensure every household still received the five kilolitre free allocation even in the cases of non-payment, which had previously resulted in complete cut-offs.”
Council, at one time frustrated by failure by ratepayers to pay bills, opted to name and shame worst defaulters in various suburbs in terms of payment of rates and rentals. The council compiled a list from all 29 wards, detailing payment patterns by residents.
BCC is owed $178 352 755 by ratepayers, including industry and government departments.
Councils around the country are also considering the installation of pre-paid water meters which would serve as a revenue collection tool as well as a debt recovery mechanism, and at the same time discourage wastefulness.