CHRA opposed to unilateral increase of water charges

In light of the continued unilateral decisions (which continue to affect residents) at the Harare City Council, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is seriously considering the public litigation route.

Recently, on September 9, 2019, council issued, a ‘proposal’ to increase water charges from RTGs0.80 to RTGs7.00 on the justification that this will allow for adequate funding of the water sector.

To us, this is not a proposal but a decision that has been arrived at without proper consultation of residents.

The following statement from council is clear testimony to the above statement, ‘The city is appealing to consumers to understand the situation and embrace the impending price adjustment that will ensure viability of the water sector’.

The unilateral move to increase water charges follows the implementation of the supplementary budget without consultation of residents as per the requirements of the law.

The supplementary budget has also increased the cost of living for the residents of Harare.

We are very much awake to the current economic environment and the need for council to be in a position to offer effective service delivery but we vehemently oppose anything that is implemented without consulting the residents.

Nothing for us without us!

In this regard, public litigation remains our only viable option and we further implore council officials to follow proper procedures before implementing decisions that affect residents.

We stand guided by the Urban Councils Act which clearly states that before any tariffs, charges, or deposits come into operation, a statement setting out the proposed tariffs, charges or deposits and any existing tariffs, charges or deposits for the same matter shall-

(a) be advertised in two issues of a newspaper; and

(b) be posted at the office of the council for a period of not less than thirty days from the date of the first advertisement in the newspaper

The Act goes further to state that after the advertisement; if objections are raised by “thirty or more persons who are voters or who are users of the service to which the tariff, charge or deposits relate’ such tariffs shall be reconsidered by council and must not come into effect unless the resolution is again passed by a majority of the total membership of council.

As CHRA, we are also concerned that the increase in water charges will come with heavy costs for a large section of Harare residents, especially in areas such as Mabvuku, Tafara, who have gone for years without water yet continue to be charged for water consumption.

It is also unacceptable for the council to increase water charges at a time they have failed to put their billing system in order and continue to charge residents based on estimates.

Moreover, the rate collection efficiency by the City of Harare has been around 55-60 percent among top debtors that include government departments and to us; this is a serious tax justice issue that must be addressed.

There are also serious shortcomings on the part of the City Of Harare such as the issue of 60 percent of non-revenue water from water bursts and illegal connections and residents continue to be at the receiving end of mismanagement at council.

This year (2019) the City of Harare embarked on a massive recruitment drive which in our view was ‘unnecessary’ given councils huge pay roll and residents cannot continue to bear the brunt of ill-informed decisions by council.

CHRA will join like-minded organizations in mobilizing residents to resist unilateral measures from council.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association

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