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Serious water crisis hits Beitbridge

A serious water crisis has hit Beitbridge town again as a result of disputes between the municipality and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).
More than half the money paid by the town goes on servicing legacy debts, rather than buying treated water needed now, and 40 percent of the water delivered to the town is lost without generating any revenue since the water is metered at the point it enters the town, rather than the point where a household gets water.
The net result is that only around a quarter of the money collected by the municipality and paid to Zinwa actually buys water used in the town.
The two entities have been at loggerheads since 2011 and have pending court disputes over an endless legal debt and contentious billing system.
So far the local authority owes Zinwa an estimated $272 million accruing from 2013 and this has resulted in the parastatal connecting prepaid bulk meters on the incoming supply for the town to force the municipality to clear its arrears.
The result is the town getting less than 7000 cubic meters of water weekly down from the 44 000 cubic metres a week they were getting during the postpaid era.
Acting Beitbridge town clerk Mr Sathulani Moyo said the water supply in the town become critical since the beginning of the year. The local authority was considering rolling out a tight water rationing schedule for them to be able to supply all the high-priority areas with water.
“The situation is quite bad and we hope to arrive at a solution soon,” said Mr Moyo.
“In fact, we are getting less than our demand considering that we still have some properties which are yet to be connected to the water reticulation system.
“Our situation has been compounded by the fact that we are billed more than we are getting by Zinwa from their supply point instead of our distribution point to the end-user”.
He said in the last quarter of last year the council billed residents a total of $50,5 million and collected $46 million against a Zinwa bill of $64 million. Mr Moyo said even if the town collected 100 percent of the revenue from ratepayers, they will fail to remit the entire Zinwa bill as a result of the current status quo.
“These are some of the issues we are dealing with legally. Part of the water they bill us is lost as non-revenue water which is around 40 percent of their bill.
So, we are rationing supplies to the community while we seek a permanent solution to the water problem,” he added.
Mr Moyo said the municipality was making weekly payments of $2,5 million to Zinwa but were only getting a supply of worth around $1,1 million after the parastatal collects 40 percent of the money for the legacy debt and another 15 percent as VAT.
He said the town was getting 7 000 cubic meters weekly and only managing to distribute 4 329 cubic meters to the ratepayers since the other 40 percent was being lost as non-revenue water.
The current state of affairs in the town has seen water vendors cashing in through the sale of water (some unsafe) to desperate residents.
On average a bucket of water is being sold between R3 and R5 depending on the time of the day, while a container of a 200 litres tank is going for R100.
Although she was not available for comment yesterday, Zinwa’s spokesperson, Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said recently that the authority had enough water to supply the town and that the current supply gap arose from the municipality’s failure to pay up.
“The current water situation in the town is, therefore, an artificial one, emanating from the council’s failure to honour its obligations.
For the avoidance of doubt, sufficient notice was given to the municipality prior to the installation of the prepaid meters, which should have given them ample time to mobilize the necessary resources required for an uninterrupted water supply,” she said.
So far, Beitbridge residents have petitioned Zinwa to abandon its plans to activate bulk prepaid meters to the local authority’s reservoirs.
In a document, signed by representatives of the Beitbridge Residents Association, Beitbridge Urban Residents Association, and the Beitbridge Progressive Residents and Rate Payers Development Trust, the community is arguing that the move will worsen the already dire water supply situation.
They said instead of using bulk prepaid meters, Zinwa should allow the local authority to install the meters at the household level. – Herald
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