Rumbidzai Ngwenya Features Writer
A sound tariff policy is a necessity for the development of stable supply of safe water which has been a major crisis in Harare for years. Development of such a policy in Harare can be impossible without measuring actual water consumption owing to illegal water connections from fire hydrants and horses by many residents especially in new locations. Reportedly, there are more than 20 000 unregistered connections for water and water waste emanating in Harare.
This has called for council’s ultimatum to illegal connectors that they register by February 28, before the law takes its course. On observation, unregistered connections were originating from a variety of issues. These include cooperatives who were avoiding stressful procedures and individuals ignorantly evading paying bills. Hardlife Mudzingwa, programmes manager at Community Water Alliance (CWA) reckoned that the problem behind unregistered connections for cooperatives lies on tiresome processes in registering.
“For cooperatives, a compliance certificates from the City of Harare is needed and the majority do not have. “There are cooperatives that were given state land by the Ministry of Local Government. They are expected to comply with by-laws of council for them to have a compliance certificate and then be connected legally to water and waste water systems.
“City of Harare through the Department of Urban Planning is responsible for giving compliance certificates. Cooperatives and residents normally would try short cuts because the processes are tiresome and they take time,” said Mudzingwa. He thinks mismanagement by council due to duplicitous personnel within it contributed more to the unscrupulous connections done around the city.
“A very good example is the connection of Joshua Nkomo Cooperative in Kambuzuma. An engineer from Harare Water un-procedurally connected water to residents and it led to internal disciplinary measures. With no doubt corruption therefore is part of the problem,” said Mudzingwa. He said only experts from Harare Water can set connections which leaves the council in the spot light.
“It is also important to note that connecting to water and waste water by the whole cooperative, requires planned water cuts. This means any unregistered connection for a group like a cooperative, has an official from Harare Water involved,” he said. Mudzingwa added, “Individuals connecting themselves are those who do not want to pay for services and it is illegal.
“It is an act that cannot be tolerated, but Council need to look at itself and things that are improperly done within, so that this problem does not resurface,” said Mudzingwa. He partly blames the Government for its institutions that took time to deal with issues and centralisation rose to be a major concern.
“The issue of unregistered connections is hugely a governance problem, where coordination of key institutions involved is weak. They take a lot of time and some issues are unnecessarily centralised. “The coordinating institutions includes Surveyor General’s office, Local Authority Planning Department, Ministry of Lands and the Environmental Management Agency.
“For example, the case of delayed connections of some part in Hatcliffe houses led to illegal water connections. If the responsible authorities could be more efficient in provision of its services CWA is certain that the problem could be evaded. The problem therefore lies with the central Government and the local authority. They need to fix such governance issues and quicken processes so that residents are not enticed to bribe for water connections.”
Despite Council’s raised apprehension over unregistered connections, director of Harare Residents Trust, Mr Precious Shumba blamed the council’s obscurity. “The city of Harare water department thieves disguised as engineers are illegally connecting water to housing developers across Harare. Why are they not punishing the thieves?” he said.
He was quick to brush away claims of foul play by residents, but rather insisted the department needed positive administration. “The reality is that all wasted water is linked to internal Harare water department control and monitoring systems which allow their workers to act with impunity without any negative administrative consequences.”
Harare Residents Trust has demanded a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of council and how illegality has taken root on its operations. The council has however, denied corruption allegation within the department. “Cooperatives and residents are illegally connecting water and water waste just for the love of doing illegal things. “The council is doing everything it can professionally and our services to those who want water connections are available, but there are legal procedures that need to be followed.” Corporate Communications Manager Mr Michael Chideme has said
He said unregistered connections have been a major problem that has led to losing millions every year. “Unregistered connections are using water for free and it is costing the City Council. Water needs to be treated and equipment used requires maintenance,” said Michael Chideme. Mr Chideme encouraged residents to register before the council take legal action against them.
“Unregistered connectors are using other people’s money, who register and pay their bills. Besides that the act is unfair and also illegal. “So we are encouraging people to come willingly to register before we move on to penalising them because we will definitely hunt them down,” said Mr Chideme.
Council also urged the public to report these scrupulous acts to ensure service betterment to ratepayers. “We are also encouraging whistle blowers to come forward and report such cases. The more unregistered connections go unreported, the more the residents and the City Council continue to be affected. We need to work together on this one to improve the quality of products we offer people,” he said.
The council embarked on dealing with illegal connections which saw many connections being cut off several times last year. Adding to council efforts, Programmes Manager of CWA suggested other solutions that could shift the Councils gear.
“Solution is two-fold. The Council should make a new baby named ‘One Stop Shop’ at City of Harare. If it is done properly it helps fix lack of coordination and ultimately address the governance issue.” Devolution and decentralisation within the Council could also bring some changes to what is currently on the ground.
“Harare is a mini-government and should have a semi-autonomous process of both land, whether state or otherwise, surveying, allocation, planning and ultimately piping as a solution to these connections,” Mudzingwa said.