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Dr Moyo's points are irrelevant and border on mischief

08 Feb 2015 at 09:34hrs | Views
Dr Qhubani Moyo, a policy and political analyst from Bulawayo East constituency in one of his many articles in the public media last Sunday attempts to dismiss the efforts of civil society organisation in Bulawayo to challenge the attempt by the Bulawayo City Council to introduce prepaid water meters in the city. In his submission Dr Moyo raises a number of points to shore up his argument and it is my intention here to respond to these. Some of the points offered by Dr Moyo are downright irrelevant and border on mischief, some are innocently erroneous and others arise from flawed analysis. I believe Dr Moyo as a regular writer is always excited to hear what others think on many subjects and indeed on his views. So here goes!

The irrelevant and the mischievous

I think it is fair to quickly dispense of the points that serve no purpose in the argument except to smuggle in cheap shots that have no bearing on the issues at hand. It is fair to say Dr Moyo has a long standing tiff with certain organisations in the city, those he perceives as "belonging" (whatever that means) to Dr Godern Moyo, the Member of the House of Assembly for Makokoba Constituency.

I hold no brief for either Dr Godern Moyo or the organisations alleged without evidence to be part of his asset register, I am convinced that they are perfectly capable of responding for themselves. What I find mystifying is how Dr Qhubani Moyo seeks to draw straight lines connecting Dr Godern Moyo, the Renewal Team, civil society organisations and the people-driven anti-water campaign. While line drawing can be an exciting undertaking where it is relevant for instance in pre-school, to try and transfer this banal activity and burden it onto a genuine issue driven popular process like the anti-prepaid water campaign is mind boggling to say the least.

A bit of education here for Dr Qhubani Moyo and the like minded: the anti-prepaid water campaign is a people's project co-ordinated by 16 organisations in the City of Bulawayo and to attempt to reduce it to a few mischievously selected groups is dishonest and when Dr Qhubani is alone with his conscience he knows this too. These organisations are diverse but united by a singular desire to protect the poor and marginalised from anti-poor policies and this is what we are doing here. This is our motivation Moyo, not some hyena in the bush suspicions which seem to clog your analysis.

For reasons I will state below, the people of Bulawayo do not want pre-paid water meters, in fact no community wants them, either here or elsewhere in the world.

Examples for this abound and shall be given in due course. I am still battling to understand how Dr Qhubani Moyo has decided to bunch up these unrelated issues. What is the agenda, or more directly what is the political capital?

The innocently erroneous and the flawed analysis

In his lengthy presentation Dr Q Moyo makes a number of erroneous conclusions that arise from wrong premises. These are forgivable because they clearly are not malicious but simply feed from wrong information. They must be corrected all the same. Dr Q Moyo attempts to convince us that there is gross negligence by residents of the city to pay for their water supply and that this is paralysing council operations. The solution therefore is prepaid water meters.

If residents prepay for water then we all live happily ever after! For Moyo and the sponsors of the prepaid water agenda this is a eureka moment, they have hit the proverbial nail on the head. What they do not realise is that by its own admission, inadvertently perhaps, the Bulawayo City Council actually does not have a problem with water revenue.

In other words someone has come up with a brilliant solution to solve a non-existent problem and we are all supposed to give them a standing ovation. Not in a thousand years and I will say why. The council boasts daily that it is providing 5 000 litres per month free of charge per household. Brilliant you guys are doing a massive job. But therein lies your problem! By their own admission the council also acknowledges that very few households actually use that amount of water per month.

In a meeting I addressed with senior council staff officially hosted by the National Youth Development Trust in November 2014 in Makokoba, the council officials and the members of the audience did quick Maths and we agreed unanimously that most households actually require about 4 000 litres per month leaving a surplus of 1 000 litres unused per month.

Two issues arise from this algebraic exercise, firstly council is very capable of delivering quality, sufficient water for free, and they have been doing it for years. More importantly they are prepared to do it for many years to come because the prepaid water system provides for 5 000 litres free.

The second point is that residents should actually be receiving no bills for water, because their consumption does not warrant billing as it falls within the free allocation of water unless people are being dishonest on the issue of the free water.

In the event of a household using more that the allocated free water, the bill cannot conceivably exceed $2 unless one is running a fruit juice making factory at home! I hope by so saying I am not misunderstood to suggest that residents do not owe council, but surely it is not for water, it's something else, rates etc. Do not link rates to water please, the argument is hollow so don't even attempt to raise it.

The question then is what problem is the prepaid water meter responding to? Is it a considered position or just some excitement with irrelevant technology, or just maybe, mhhhh just maybe there is more to it than meets the eye? More algebra Dr Q Moyo.

The council officials have told us that this offending gadget called the prepaid water meter costs $250 to purchase. Now factor in the cost of training the personnel who will install it, the cost of installation, the cost of educating residents on how to use it and indeed the cost of repairs when those gadgets naturally break down. All that cost, that expense to ensure that residents pay $2 or less per month? Really now? How many years will it take for the council just to recover the cost of start-up before we even look at the cost of providing the water?

It will take over 100 months just to recover the cost of the gadget. Nine whole years. Now Dr Q Moyo does that make economic sense to you? As a policy analyst does that qualify as a good policy? Would we be wrong Dr Moyo if we see a devious mind at work here?

If Bulawayo has 130 000 households, multiply that by $250. $32,5 million? Massive figure, that for an economically senseless project, or is it. Maybe it is not making sense to us the general public but lots of sense to some people's pockets!

Imagine starting the year with that figure in your account. Ziyabe zikhupha shame!!!!!

Dr Moyo also correctly points out that Section 77 of the Constitution of the Republic provides for the right to water and that it urges the State to make "reasonable legislative and other measures within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of these rights". Agreed! But the point that Dr Moyo is missing is that this does not apply to Bulawayo because as we have already noted above, the council is already doing an excellent job in providing for this right.

The prepaid water meter does not enhance the right, in fact it takes away the ability to fulfil the right. The prepaid water meter requires that the user must first purchase some water for them to enjoy the right and there lies our problem.

Council is already providing the service with no qualms, the question is why add that burden on the residents to pay that amount which they may not use after all given that the 5 000 litres is already more than sufficient for the majority of households except those running fruit juice making factories in their homes?

Some of us have had the opportunity to interact extensively through the processes that Dr Q Moyo refers to, the march and the door to door campaign. We were met with heart wrenching stories of poverty, families that have never had electricity since the introduction of prepaid electricity, families where supposed bread winners tell us that they have gone for a whole week without handling as little 2 rand even just as mediums in order to pass it on to the next person. The implication of this is that if a family does not have the requisite money to trigger the flow of water even the free 5 000 litres then that family has no water until such a time that fortune smiles on them.

This is not some lonely story but a reflection of the situation of a scaringly high number of households in the city. There is no substitute for water, one can do something about electricity but absolutely nothing about water. You can't ask from neighbours either because you become a burden to them.

The Bulawayo City Council is well aware of this, unless the councillors live in ivory towers, God Forbid! The council tells us and anyone else who cares to listen every now and again that industries are closing down and the levels of poverty in the city have reached alarming levels. Why then would you go on and introduce a practice that ignores this confirmed reality? What motivates a whole council to sit down at the expense of the residents, without consulting the residents and come up with such legislation? I hope their avowed Apostle Dr Q Moyo has these answers. We are being put at risk of diseases like Cholera by people we elected to serve our best interests.


These meters have been tried in functioning economies like Ireland, South Africa, Ghana etc and they have failed simply because they live the poorest vulnerable and unable to enjoy their right to water and by extension the right to life.

Like some council officials Dr Q Moyo tries to sugar coat this unfortunate and misguided policy by suggesting that it is meant for the people of Cowdray Park only and the Garikai/Hlakani kuhle section in particular implying therefore that all of us should not be worried.

It is a pilot project, he says as if that makes it better. Dr Q Moyo the prepaid water project is a full council resolution which is being piloted in Cowdray Park and will be extended to the rest of the city. The people of Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle have over and over again said it, they don't want the prepaid water meters. Council is determined to ignore their voices and indeed they will ignore the voices of Bulawayo. Once bitten twice shy.

We refuse to be balkanised and made to think that the people of Cowdray Park are some isolate group and their struggles are peculiar to them. We stand with them in unshakeable solidarity knowing that an injury to one is an injury to all.

It is the same solidarity we displayed when the Government attempted to foist Zinwa on us, it was a bad decision, we resisted it, this is a bad decision we are resisting it. It's called consistency and we are proud that we have not been found wanting on that score. Whatever happened to representation in council, where councillors spoke for their people and not against their people, where councillors were giants standing against those that act against the interests of their constituencies. Lafa elihle!

For want of space I wish to conclude by saying that prepaid water meters are not only unwarranted they are also unwanted. My colleagues and I in the civil movement are convinced that we speak for the poor people of Bulawayo and no amount of divide and rule as attempted by Dr Q Moyo will shake us.

The right to water is such a crucial entitlement, it would border on the criminal to even imagine tampering with it through anti-people policies like the prepaid water meters. We are open to debate as I have done here and we will engage anyone anywhere on this matter. We will put aside personal friendships and engage robustly on these issues.

Godwin Phiri is the Director of a youth focused NGO based in Bulawayo. is a member of a coalition of 16 organisations engaged in the anti-prepaid water campaign. He can be contacted on

Source - sundaynews
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