By Thomas Madhuku
Residents associations dismissed the City of Harare’s proposed 2021 budget which they said is a departure from its duty to provide services to residents to running a commercial entity only concerned with profits.
City of Harare’s proposed ZW$32,7 billion (US$400 million) financial plan for 2021, saw water consumption charges for five cubic litres going up from ZW$20 (24 US cents) to ZW$115 (US$1,40) and ZW$25 (30 US cents) to ZW$153 (US$1,87) for high-density suburbs and low density respectively.
Weekly refuse collection charges have also gone up by 1918% from ZW$28 (34 US cents) to ZW$565 (US$6,91) per month in the high-density areas, while in the low-density areas residents will now pay ZW$803 (US$9,82) from ZW$42 (51 US cents) in 2020 representing a 1 812% increase.
In a statement, Harare Residents Trust (HRT) said the 2021 budget was unsatisfactory, insensitive and unrealistic as it did not capture issues raised by residents during consultations.
HRT said Harare’s proposal to increase water consumption charges showed a lack of empathy for residents whose livelihoods were badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation.
“Rates have increased beyond the reach of many residents, further straining residents’ incomes that have received battering from inflation in 2020,” HRT said.
Community Water Harare (CWH) coordinator, Hardlife Mudzingwa, rejected the proposed water tariffs saying the City of Harare as a public entity should seek to breakeven rather than making a profit from public service delivery.
“We have had sight of the proposed water rates and tariffs proposed by City of Harare and as an institution, we are against the proposal, if you look at water tariffs that are being proposed by the City of Harare, for the first five cubic metres, the cost would be US$1,40 whilst the cost of purifying water per cubic metre is US$0,70.
“Water is a public good and City of Harare is a public institution, so our expectation is that the highest they can go is to operate at break-even,” Mudzingwa said.
He urged the City of Harare to look at means of cutting the huge water purifying cost, which he said is caused by pollution of water sources resulting in the municipality using up to 11 chemicals.
“We need to look at the root causes of the huge cost. We have contaminated water sources that is why they are using 10 to 11 chemicals to purify water.
“When you look at what is contributing to that, you realise that chief among the pollutants in the city itself through Crowborough sewer treatment plant and Chitungwiza municipality through its sewer treatment plant,” Mudzingwa said.
“So instead of increasing the cost of water per cubic metre, let’s deal with the root cause.
“We have the polluter-pay principle in our national water policy and legal framework of the country, let’s tighten our legal framework and ensure that there is remedial work beyond just pushing through the payment of a cost to those who are polluting.
“Let’s also ensure that they provide remedial work through improving the quality of raw water before it reaches the lake.”
Shalvar Chikomba, the national chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trusts (ZNOART), said they were also against the proposed budget, which he said proposes figures that are beyond the reach of residents.
“As residents, we are against the City of Harare budget proposal. These figures they are proposing are out of reach to most of us residents.
“They want money yet they don’t have a proper billing system. How will they collect the money. So there is nothing that guarantees us to get proper service delivery because all they are interested in is their bank balances,” Chikomba said.
Before his arrest, Harare mayor Jacob Mafume had assured residents that there was room for amendments to the budget, which he said would be advertised for 30 days before submission to Government for approval.
“We will take the stakeholders’ comments very seriously. We do hope that through the budget we will be able to rejuvenate the city while moving towards attaining the smart city that we want,” he said.