The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has come under fire for introducing a US$10 fixed monthly charge for domestic users yet failing to deliver water to clients, The NewsHawks has established.
Zinwa’s corporate communication department said in a statement the move was introduced last month.
‘‘Zinwa wishes to advice clients and stakeholders that with effect from June 1, 2023, it has started implementing United States dollars (USD) indexed tariffs. The move has been necessitated by the need to preserve the value of water bills in light of the current exchange rate fluctuations triggered sharp increases in the prices of critical goods and services required for sustainable service delivery in local currency. These include fuel, spares, water treatment chemicals, electricity, maintenance of vehicles and equipment as well as some statutory obligations,’’ reads the statement.
The new tariff system applies to both raw and treated water clients.
‘‘All outstanding balances have also been converted to USD as a way of preserving the value of the monies owed to Zinwa.
The water authority has since dispatched individual letters to clients advising them of this position. In line with the current government position on the use of multi-currencies and the need to promote the use of the local currency, clients are free to settle their bills in their currency of choice using the prevailing auction rate on the day of payment,’’ added that the statement.
The fixed monthly water tariff for domestic consumers is pegged at US$10.
This week, stakeholders blamed the water utility for failing to deliver water.
Hwange Residents’ Association chairperson Fidelis Chima said water supplies are erratic in the mining town.
“Water is a crisis in Hwange. We are forced to go for some weeks without accessing it. Residents endure several weeks without a drop of water and it is a big challenge,’’ said Chima in a telephone interview.
Karoi Urban Residents’ Association chairperson Trymore Chinembiri said Zinwa’s decision to introduce fixed charges is unacceptable.
‘‘We are against the idea of charging a fixed charge by Zinwa. They are failing to provide the service required by residents, so coming up with a fixed charge (in forex) is overburdening the residents who would have paid for water that is not provided. The majority of our residents resort to buying water elsewhere while Zinwa is charging fixed charges,’’ said Chinembiri.
He challenged Zinwa to deliver the required services before implementing a fixed charge.
‘‘Zinwa is a service provider that has failed on its mandate. There is no justification to monthly fixed charge at all.
“The water taps are always dry and most of the people are not connected to the Zinwa system so what services are they getting from them? This is daylight robbery. The fixed charge is also not reasonable and too expensive. We say the fixed charge is not necessary as it puts unnecessary pressure on the residents,’’ said Chinembiri.
The Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust (ZNOART) chairperson Shepherd Shava Chikomba said all government ministries, departments and agencies including Zinwa and local authorities should stand guided by a directive dated 1 September 2022 from Treasury to collect all fees and levies in Zimbabwe dollars only, except where specified.
Chikomba said the Treasury directive is a welcome relief to the ordinary residents in theory, but in practice service providers such as Zinwa are wantonly violating it.
‘‘ZNOART clearly understands viability and cost recovery in public service provision, but it is surprising that the USD charges are across the board, regardless of whether or not the service has a foreign currency component. This is contrary to section 13(c) of the Public Finance Management (General) Regulations and also contrary to the Treasury directive that directly grants exceptional approval.
‘‘ZNOART sees no justice for exceptional approval as there has been poor and non-existent service delivery yet the service provider’s management is always living large,’’ added Chikomba.
He said Statutory Instrument 118A of 2022 legally establishes a local currency debt to be paid in local currency and a foreign currency debt to be payable in foreign currency.
‘‘Therefore, all conversion of legacy debts by service providers such as local authorities and Zinwa is null and void as it defeats the spirit of SI 118,’’ concluded Chikomba.
On 1 September last year, Finance permanent secretary George Guvamatanga said any collection of fees and levies for services rendered in foreign currency by government ministries, departments, agencies, as well as local authorities, is illegal.
‘‘It should be in local currency at the prevailing interbank rate, unless granted exceptional approval by Treasury,’’ said Guvamatanga then.
Zinwa clients, including domestic, miners and farmers, owe a cumulative ZWL$36.6 billion as at 31 May 2023. The agency supplies water to 534 stations that include local authorities, miners and farmers around the country.