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Bulawayo residents bring city centre to standstill

by Staff reporter
15 Nov 2014 at 06:28hrs | Views
Over 2 000 Bulawayo residents on Friday brought business in the central business district to a standstill as they demonstrated against the city council's decision to install prepaid water meters in Cowdray Park's Hlalani Kuhle area, amid revelations the pilot project will also come up for implemention in  the rest of the city later.

Placard carrying residents marched through the city from Egodini Terminus chanting: Bopha ijambu sikhabe imeter (Tie your boots and let us get rid of the meter).

The placards read: Iprepaid angeke sayivuma, (We will not accept prepaid meters), Kasiwafuni amaprepaid" (We don't want prepaid meters).

Speaking during the march which drew thousands and  infront of the Large City Hall, National Youth Development Trust director Liberty Bhebhe said people in Bulawayo were jobless as a result of company closures, adding that installation of prepaid water meters would constitute a fatal blow for them as they could not afford water sold in such a manner.

"When cholera starts to affect people, we will all feel it and it will affect us all. Which is why we are saying no to prepaid water meters," he said.

Anti-riot police kept a watchful eye on the proceedings.

The city council intends to pilot test prepaid water meters in Cowdray Park's Hlalani Kuhle area before rolling them out to the rest of the city.

In June, over 500 residents staged a demonstration in Cowdray Park, calling on Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to rescind its decision to install prepaid water meters. However, the city's mayor Martin Moyo insisted council would go ahead with its plans.

Bulawayo Agenda Trust board member Debra Mabunda said the water issue was critical and needed immediate and careful attention.

"The installation of prepaid water meters is not right. We do not want prepaid meters," she said.

The demonstration was led by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) which include Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), the Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe, Radio Dialogue, Bulawayo Agenda, the National Youth Development Trust, the Women's Institute of Leadership Development, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Enterprises, Victory Siyanqoba, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Intsha.com, Christian Legal Society amongst others as part of the Right to Water Campaign.

BPRA chairperson Reason Ngwenya lashed out at the council for disrespecting the late water activist Arnorld Payne's wishes.

"The city council should not install prepaid water meters but should show us some respect. We are doing this in remembrance of the late hero Arnold Payne who died this year after years of lobbying for government to fulfil its mandate on the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project," he said.

Payne is remembered for his selfless campaign after he travelled from the Zambezi River to Bulawayo, then to Gwanda and back to the city pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with a 210 litre-drum with water, all in the name of raising awareness of the need for Bulawayo to have the Zambezi River water project done.

Responding to the massive demonstration, the Bulawayo city council issued a statement indirectly reiterating the decision was final as the council outlined "how prepaid metering works and how the new system will work and how consumers will buy water ", a sign that council had already taken a stand.

"The system automatically bills the consumers and creates consumption profiles and daily, weekly and monthly reconciliation reports. BCC will be able to generate revenue from the water thereby ensuring a sustainable future," said the statement.

Speaking during the same event, Chitungwiza residents trust chairperson Marvellous Khumalo said councillors were taking advantage of the residents.

"We are telling the thieves in council that we do not want their prepaid meters," he said.

Last year, the Chitungwiza municipality purchased 3 000 smart meters for $265 000 against residents' wishes.

Recently, the ministry of Environment, Water and Climate instructed local authorities to introduce prepaid water meters in their respective cities and towns in order to increase revenue collection despite objections from residents.

Source - The Zim Mail

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