The Mutare City Council has disconnected water supplies to thousands of residents in an attempt to recover a $20 million debt in unpaid service delivery charges. Residents claim that they do not have money to pay bills due to the current harsh economic situation in Zimbabwe
The local authority, which is facing serious financial challenges, is pressing residents and state entities to pay bills as its activities are almost grinding to a halt.
Mutare Mayor Tatenda Nhamarare has justified the current onslaught on the residents insisting that they should pay what they owe the council.
“We have embarked on the program to disconnect water from those that are not paying as we are in dire need of the money to do service delivery; but one thing for sure is that we are open for discussion on terms of payments. Residents are free to approach us on payment plans.”
Nhamarare says the council needs funds to buy new refuse collection vehicles and for paying service providers while giving local residents required services.
Mutare resident, Charles Waziweyi, says the council should negotiate with local people for payment of water and refuse collection charges instead of just switching off water taps.
Another Mutare resident, Douglas Pachiti, says the council is right in disconnecting water supplies for non-paying local inhabitants as some people are now used to accessing free services.
“I think it’s a good and bold idea as they need to have a good service for the residents which has to come from us residents.”
But David Mutambirwa, coordinator of the Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association, says the council should have some means of ensuring that the residents are not exposed to health hazards due to water disconnections.
“Everyone is in a quandary as no one is being paid and everybody needs the water and what we need to do is sit down and discuss before these water disconnections continue.”
The council insists that they need to recover the money owed by the residents before negotiating with them for paying in instalments. There are now fears of an outbreak of cholera and other contagious diseases in the eastern border town as some residents have gone for several days without water. They are now drawing water from unprotected watering points.