Water disconnections an affront to human rights: BPRA

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has berated the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) for enforcing the water disconnection program arguing that it is a violation of residents’ fundamental right to water.

This comes at a time when the local authority has revealed that it is going to intensify the water disconnection program throughout the city as part of efforts to recoup over $900 million it is owed by ratepayers.

In a statement, Thursday, BPRA said while they acknowledge the decline in revenue collection, the disconnection program is going to affect residents.

“Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) notes with grave concern that large-scale water disconnections for non-payment have been launched by Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to force residents to pay as part of efforts to recover the $943 Million debt owed to the council by residents and businesses,” said BPRA.

“While BPRA awaits official communication from BCC concerning this development, acknowledging that decline in revenues threatens the financial viability of council and impedes on its ability to provide service delivery, there is no way in which council can effect water cuts without harming the fundamental rights of the residents concerned.”

The Residents Association highlighted that due to the high urban poverty rate and a high unemployment rate, relatively expensive water bills are not affordable for a significant portion of the population that survives on out-of-pocket transactions.

BPRA added that water disconnections are only permissible in incidents where it can be proved that the resident can pay but is not paying.

“In other words, when there is a genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbid disconnections according to the United Nations.”

“BPRA would like to remind council that according to international human rights law, it is the State’s obligation to provide urgent measures, including financial assistance, to ensure access to essential water and sanitation.”

BPRA said the Municipality was implementing the water disconnection program amid the ongoing water-shedding experienced by residents and the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Despite the claim by BCC that there has been a suspension of the water-shedding program, a lot of suburbs still do not have water due to the intermittent disruptions,” BPRA said.

“BCC is essentially disconnecting a service that is not available. This, once again, is akin to locking the stable when the horses have already bolted out. BCC is therefore affecting water cuts in the twin evils, the pandemic, and a water-shedding program. These twin evils have the potential to diminish the life chances of vulnerable residents.”

In addition, BPRA noted that a huge part of the bill is owed by industry and BCC cannot penalize residents for this. “We have fully paid-up residents who have gone for weeks without receiving water.”

Meanwhile, BPRA said, currently, BCC lacks business strategies to address inefficiency in collecting revenues and called for the urgent need to finalize the parking meter project which remains a missed opportunity.
“Failure to follow laid down procurement standards has prevented BCC from realizing revenue inflows from the parking meter project. BPRA would also like to urge BCC to urgently address under-performance in billing which has a knock-on effect on revenue collection,” said the residents association.

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology

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