By Helen Kadirire
Hard-pressed Harare City Council (HCC) is considering hiking water tariffs as part of measures to shore up its dwindling revenues.
According to the local authority’s finance and development committee minutes for December, councillors argued that the increase will enable HCC to provide better services.
“The HCC presented their 2017 budget proposal to the Local Government ministry that council considers increasing water tariffs in order to avoid selling water at below cost,” read part of the minutes.
Currently, the MDC-run council is owed over $530 million in unpaid water rates by residents, companies, industry and government departments.
In 2014, the council resolved to scrap the fixed water charge for suburbs that did not receive the commodity but however, nothing has been done to-date.
Current figures indicate that fixed water charges in high density areas are $4 while the low density and commercial sector pay $9 and $50 respectively.
HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme said council is still working on the appropriate figure to be presented to Saviour Kasukuwere’s Local Government ministry for approval.
He said the new tariff is meant to increase sustainability so that costs are recovered and service delivery is improved.
“We will only bill customers that are connected. Meters will be read to determine consumption in households and where they are not functioning, they will be billed based on historical consumption,” he said.
Parliament’s Local Government portfolio committee chairperson Irene Zindi complained that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) was charging a high fee to local authorities for its raw water.
She also said another problem was the scrapping of debts by government prior to the 2013 elections, which left all local authorities indebted.
“Zinwa is making it very difficult for local authorities to offer effective service delivery. Either the water they sell is too expensive or their plants brokedown. Sometimes Zinwa and local authorities take each other to the courts and the little that is collected by local authorities goes towards meeting legal costs,” she said.
Zinwa’s corporate communications manager Marjorie Munyonga said the authority charges $0,70 for every 1 000 litres of bulk treated water, a tariff that was arrived at after striking a balance between availability and affordability of the service.
She however, said for the past few years, local authorities have not been paying their water bills which are now running into millions of dollars.
“Local authorities account for over $33 million of the nearly $140 million Zinwa is owed by its various clients such as farmers. The situation has resulted in an untenable situation where Zinwa is now struggling to ensure basic maintenance of the water infrastructure such as dams that supply water to the very local authorities and other clients,” Munyonga said. Daily News