Bulawayo City Council has made a major climb-down on compulsory installation of pre-paid water meters. The city will now install the gadgets on a voluntary basis. The u-turn follows massive resistance of the project by the city’s residents. A trial run on the water pre-paid meters was set to begin in the last quarter of 2015 in some residential suburbs, but the project was abandoned after residents showed much displeasure in the move.
Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Martin Moyo said the local authority had also considered a lot of factors such as high fees of installation of the pre-paid meters.
“We have not installed pre-paid water meters anywhere because we faced resistance from civic societies, notably The Bulawayo United Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) and thus we are installing the pre-paid water meters on a voluntary basis,” he said.
“The other challenge that we have is that the meters are not yet in stock. We have, however, floated a tender so that those who want the meters can apply. We have also considered that some of our residents might not be able afford the installation fee which is ranging between $200 and $250, thus we are a little cautious on those that do not want them. We want them to realise the benefits of the initiative without us forcing them.”
Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) chairman Mr Winos Dube commended the move and said there was a need for the council to look for other ways to recover debts. He said the installation of water pre-paid meters would affect the vulnerable who do not have money to make pre-payments.
“Vulnerable groups in the society may have unpaid water bills running into thousands of dollars, which local authorities say they will deduct through all future water payments, meaning they run into the danger of having dry water taps as long as they owe local authorities,” said Mr Dube.
Bulawayo had earlier vowed to go ahead with installation of the meters despite meeting fierce resistance from the residents. In 2014, Bulawayo residents staged demonstrations protesting the council’s plans to install water prepaid meters.