Peter Tanyanyiwa Suburban Reporter
WARD 17 residents have called on the City of Harare (CoH) to prioritise and fairly ration water as they face a serious health hazard if action is not taken urgently.
In discussions at a Ward 17 2023 budget consultation meeting held on Sunday at the Kingdom People’s Church in Mt Pleasant, residents told council officials they have not had a drop of water in several months while others said it has been nearly two decades without council tap water.
The residents said they were finding it difficult to live under such harsh conditions without services as some of them were either persons with disabilities or the elderly who cannot move around in search of water at public boreholes.
Residents deplored the fact that council continues to bill them for water despite going for several years without council tap water.
Due to pressing commitments elsewhere, Harare Mayor, who is also the Ward 17 Councillor Mr Jacob Mafume could not make it to the meeting and was represented by Ward 18 Councillor Mr Ian Makone, who chaired the meeting with the help of the Mt Pleasant district officer Mrs Marian Mverechena.
All council departments were represented at the meeting with 10 officials in attendance but only 10 residents attended the meeting.
However, the 10 residents had several questions for the finance department officials who presented a report on the performance of the city’s 2022 budget covering the period between January and July.
The residents also raised issue with council’s chaotic billing system saying the municipal officials should fix the shambolic billing system to ensure ratepayers received their bills with all the details such as account statements.
Residents said it was frustrating that they have to beg council each time they want to pay their dues due to lack of efficient billing.
Council officials assured residents that no extreme measures will be taken against defaulters until the municipality has resolved its billing system and residents are given their bill statements on time. The officials said it will be unfair to take measures against residents who do not know what they owe or what they are supposed to pay.
However, the officials said debt recovery systems are going to be employed and encouraged residents to visit council offices and find out how much they owe the city so that they clear arrears if there are any.
The officials said the local authority could go as far attaching defaulters’ houses if their debts are high but does not take such a route because it values its relationship with ratepayers. But residents said they feel that the local authority is always ready and armed with excuses when they demand services. They demanded that water supply should be given special priority as the continued lack of water is now a health hazard.
“The taps are dry and people (with boreholes) are no longer giving people water as the water table has gone down. If this is not addressed soon a cholera outbreak is imminent. Burst pipes everywhere, residents are getting bills which indicate they have been receiving water when they haven’t,” said a resident. Engineer Charles Chinyanya from the water department assured residents that they will start to receive water at least once a week and they will make efforts to communicate with residents.
He, however, said water production had dropped by half from 400 mega litres per day to 200 mega litres per day.
City officials provided information such as council executive costs, general staff costs as well as specific ward income and expenditure data.
Residents said the budget should address water, roads and street lighting problems in the ward.
Acting budget head in the finance department Mrs Takatadzei Musere’s presentation showed that revenue collection has dismally dropped and the city’s projects are poorly funded while sometimes the allocated money gets eroded by inflation.
“In as much as it is mandatory for the City of Harare to consult residents before the budget, we do this to foster and cement relations with residents. There are micro economic fundamentals that affect us as we do our business. We are all aware of the volatile exchange rate. By the time we did the budget the exchange rate was $1-RTGS185, and by the end of July it was at 468 and now it has exceeded that. Rising costs have affected us in every direction, we are also faced with the challenges of rising debtors and rising creditors. Our employees are demanding a rise in wages,” she said. Mrs Musere said council was in the processing of buying a new billing system.
“We are in the process of acquiring a new ERP system as residents have been complaining that you take too much time when you go to pay your bills. At the moment we don’t realise the potential revenue and it means there is a deficiency in service delivery.
“On devolution, we were allocated some $2,3 billion for the year for projects. We allocated it to water and sanitation. As of July we had only received RTGS$163 million which means the projects are not going to take off. So whatever that we planned with those funds, we will have very minimum activities happening.
“We are still engaging Government so they can disburse the difference on devolution funds. We have the problem of time and value, the money comes when we are way into the year,” said Mrs Musere.