Harare City’s prepaid water meter plans labeled unconstitutional


The Harare City Council (HCC) plans to install 50 000 prepaid water meters in areas that receive uninterrupted power supply.

HCC Spokeperson Michael Chideme has confirmed that all modalities for the installation have been finalised.

According to Chideme, “All the necessary approvals are now available and implementation modalities are being finalised. The target areas include Mbare, Sunningdale and other areas that receive water daily”.

As per Harare’s 2018 budget, prepaid water meter tariffs will be charged at $1.20 in high density suburbs and $1.50 in low density areas.

Opposition to meter roll out is rife

Some groups however, such as the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), are arguing that Harare is not ready to install the meters, as residents do not receive a constant water supply and the city is without the economic and infrastructure frameworks to support a roll out.

According to CHRA: “At the moment people are struggling to even buy prepaid electricity and when that is introduced for water , it will mean that people will also not have access to the liquid.

Statements by the residents are in sharp contrast to what council is saying about smart meters. Even Member of Parliament, Dzivarasekwa Omega Hungwe, told legislators that government should desist from installing prepaid meters, as they go against people’s constitutional right to water”.

German based GIZ released a report in 2015, Assessment and opportunities of prepaid metering systems in Zimbabwean Municipalities, which demonstrated local authorities’ lack of readiness for a wide scale roll out.

The World Bank also warned about the lengthy period of time it would take to recover associated costs. Prepaid meters will cost the city $150 – $210 per unit.

However, HCC had introduced a law to guide the adoption and use of smart water meters, in October 2017.

The enacted Harare Smart Water Meters By-Law regulates the application, installation, use and maintenance of smart water meters.

The city developed the regulatory framework following an order made by the government through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate for the country’s water regulator ZINWA to install prepaid water meters for all city councils.

The Zimbabwean government has plans to use smart meters to improve revenue collection and recover up to $140 million in water debts.

Consumer representatives outside Harare are also against the installation of prepaid water meters.

Gweru Residents’ Forum is saying smart water meters will prevent constant flow of potable water and this will also introduce major health risks to communities.

Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association information officer, Zibusiso Dube said
“If anything, the council is barking up the wrong tree, for the study shows that the non-payment of water services is not the biggest challenge the council is facing, where water services are concerned.

“…the council is faced with a huge challenge of reducing levels of non-revenue water which stood at 69% of water produced. In fact, it’s real losses which include water losses due to leakages on transmission and/or distribution mains, leakages and overflows on storage facilities and leakages on service connections. Councils are just losing millions of dollars through leakages”.