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GOVERNMENT has rallied behind local authorities, under fire for introducing a pre-paid water system on housing units, coupled with disconnections targeted at defaulting rate payers.
Water and local government ministers last week took turns to defend the policy, insisting local authorities needed to be capacitated through rates to discharge their duties effectively.
The two were asked by parliamentary backbenchers if the introduction of pre-paid meters and disconnections did not violate the constitution which guarantees the right to water.
“Water provision on its own requires somebody to pay for it,” said water and climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
“We agree that water is a human right, but it is the transmission that must be paid for.
“So the question of pre-paid water metres is really meant to support councils and service providers to have enough capacity to service the communities with water.”
Residents’ representative groups have in recent months been campaigning against the installation of water meters in households.
The rate payers are adamant the decision would leave those who fail to access water through non-payment vulnerable to diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
But local government minister Ignatius Chombo said the right to water must be viewed in the same context with the beneficiaries’ obligation to pay for services rendered in the line of its production.
“… Water is a right but the water that we get in our homes is conveyed 89 km and you need power,” Chombo said.
“It is conveyed through pipes, is stored in various tanks and is purified before you get it, so there is some cost to it.”
Chombo said rate payers experiencing difficulties in meeting their obligation must make payment arrangements with their local authorities which he said were agreeable to the arrangements.
He added: “What I think is a problem at times is that someone does not pay for his or her water for six months and when that water is now disconnected, they complain and try to use other excuses.
“…It is a requirement and a policy to pay for the services that are rendered by the local authority and these are approved annually by the relevant minister and so really the issue is that one has to pay for the services that they enjoy from the Local Authority that they have put in place.” source-newzimbabwe