By Pamela Shumba
Bulawayo City councillors resolved to suspend water disconnections to residents until August 31 and proposed the slashing of water bills by 50 percent to cushion residents from the economic challenges prevailing in the country.
According to the latest council minutes, councillors said council already has a standing resolution not to disconnect water to defaulting residents.
They argued that residents were facing serious economic challenges that were making it difficult for them to honour their bills hence the need for residents to come up with payment plans.
The councillors condemned the city council management for disconnecting water to force residents to pay their bills despite a standing resolution not to disconnect water.
The council is owed $93 million by residents, $62 million by industrial and commercial entities while parastatals and some Government ministries owe it more than $3 million.
Councillors directed the finance department to assess the impact of writing off 50 percent of the bills before a final decision can be made on the proposed reprieve.
They also ordered council management to apologise to residents through the media for disconnecting water against a council resolution.
Ward 9 Cllr Charles Moyo said residents were saddled with bills due to the economic challenges they were facing.
“Disconnecting water during this period would have a negative impact on council considering the prevailing political environment. The timing is wrong and we should remember that there is a standing council resolution not to disconnect water.
“The disconnection of water was never agreed on. I suggest that affected residents should be exempt from paying water bills for the next two months. It’s unfortunate that council which is failing to service residents citing manpower and transport challenges, managed to avail a fleet of cars and staff to disconnect water,” said Cllr Moyo.
Ward 15 Cllr Tamani Moyo said while she appreciated that residents were facing economic challenges, she did not support Cllr Charles Moyo’s suggestion to exempt the affected residents from paying bills for two months.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to exempt residents from paying water bills for two months. I suggest that residents pay 50 percent of their bills and the other 50 percent be written off,” said Cllr Moyo.
Ward 27 Cllr, Alderman Siboniso Khumalo said he wanted to find out why management misled residents by saying council had resolved to disconnect water supplies to defaulters.
He said an advertisement informing residents about the disconnection of water and payment plans was flighted after water supplies to defaulters had already been disconnected.
Ward 19 Cllr, Alderman Clayton Zana said councillors wanted to find out who had ordered council staff to disconnect water which was against a council resolution.
“I was actually surprised by the sudden increase in the number of vehicles which ferried staff to disconnect water yet council has always said it has challenges with breakdown of vehicles, fuel and paying staff overtime,” said Alderman Zana.
Ward 1 Cllr Mlandu Ncube also suggested that council reconnects affected residents and slash bills by 50 percent.
“Residents should pay 50 percent of what they owe and the remaining balance should be written off. Water disconnections should also be suspended until August 31.
“Council management should also apologise to residents through the media for the water disconnections,” said Cllr Ncube. The Chronicle