Zimbabwe

Citizens React: Zimbabweans Debate Pros and Cons of Prepaid Water Meters

Cowdray Park, shown here, is a high-density suburb in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city. City officials planned a pilot project for pre-paid water meters in this area.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

The City Council of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest municipality, at one time required prepaid water meters, citing more efficient billing, accountability and water demand management, but now these meters are only installed if citizens request them. Some residents are in favor of the prepaid meters, believing they help curb debt and conserve water; others oppose the meters, arguing that people who can’t pay won’t get water, leading to health hazards.

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — Prepaid water meters have been a contentious issue here in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city since the Bulawayo City Council required their installation. A major backlash on the policy caused the council to reverse itself, and the prepaid meters are now installed only when residents request them.

Still, the council is urging residents to have them installed. Advantages of the prepaid meters include improvements in billing and accountability as well as water demand management, according to council documents. Residents with prepaid meters can buy the water they need and know that it will be available for them, and leaks and other problems will be detected quickly.

There are other benefits, too. All customers receive the first 5,000 liters of water each month for free, Bulawayo City Council officials say.

Most homes use an average of 14,000 liters per month. The average cost of that water is $10, according to GPJ’s review of local bills.

The issue of prepaid water meters is controversial in cities and towns across Zimbabwe. In Harare, the capital city, the Combined Harare Residents Association is calling for the Harare City Council to stop the installation of the prepaid water meters.

The city of Bulawayo broached the idea of prepaid water meters in 2011, with a recommendation that a pilot project be carried out in the Cowdray Park neighborhood, before taking the project citywide.

GPJ asked Bulawayo residents for their thoughts on the installation of prepaid water meters.

expand image
expand slideshow

“I think prepaid water meters are a welcome move because they’re more convenient, and having it helps you to plan, because at the end of the day you are going to spend money. The situation that happens now is that at the end of the month, you receive a bill which you don’t know how much it costs and you have to pay for water after you have used it. But with the prepaid water meter, you know that at the end of the month I am going to use water for so much and then you budget for that. I have no problem with prepaid water meters, and I think they will solve a lot of problems.” — Zenzele Ndebele, a self-employed social media trainer

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

expand image
expand slideshow

“I believe it is unfair for the City Council to install prepaid water meters because the move denies residents the right to access water. On the other hand, on the issue of people who rent property, the prepaid water meter would be a positive move because the person renting the property will be paying for the water before use, hence they do not leave a huge water bill when they decide to move. I think that is the only advantage, meaning that the installation of these meters has more negatives than positives. For instance, it means when you are unable to pay, then you do not get any water, meaning that your surroundings will be dirty, which can be cause for health hazards among residents.” — Sheunesu Chitsiga, a student

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

expand image
expand slideshow

“I do not support the installation of prepaid water meters because it means once you can’t pay for water, then you don’t get water, making it very difficult to live. Can you imagine a mother with a small child who constantly needs water? If she cannot pay, then it means she will have a hard time. It also means in some homes, the toilets will fail to be flushed, which is a health hazard. If we also consider these hot weather conditions, where people need constant rehydration, once someone has failed to purchase the water, then they are in danger.” — Patrick Makonde, unemployed

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

expand image
expand slideshow

“I believe the installation of prepaid water meters is a good move because at least we will not remain indebted to the City Council. The more we buy prepaid water, the more our already existing debts to City Council reduce.” — Irene Mpofu, restaurant employee

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

expand image
expand slideshow

“I fully support the prepaid water meters because it helps to save water. There are residents who currently water their gardens using tap water, which wastes the currently depleted water supplies in the city. Prepaid water meters will help reduce the mismanagement of water by residents.” — Blessmore Chinga, a phone card, candy and newspaper vendor

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Load Comments

Comments

comments