City authorities in Mutare say they hiked water tariffs not to punish residents but curtail water barons who were profiteering from selling cheap council water in informal settlements and slums surrounding the city.
Acting town clerk, Antony Mutara said the new tariff regime was not punitive but pro-poor in that residents still benefitted from the cheapest water when being compared to other local authorities across the country.
The city recently hiked its rates by over 300 percent citing high cost of providing services.
The increase elicited a massive outcry from ratepayers, the business community and civic groups who all described the new tariff regime as unjustified in light of the Covid-19 induced lockdown challenges.
The outcry mainly expressed through social media platforms forced the council to reverse its decision.
"Our steeped water tariff is not punitive, but it's meant to ensure people don't go beyond their normal required consumption of 26 megalitres per household in a month.
"Those who have been abusing water either by becoming water barons or not attending to water leaks will have to pay the price of that loss of water.
"This is the reason why this tariff has caused a lot of outcry. Most people were not using their normal allocated amounts.
"There are some of course who had become water barons providing water to settlements that do not have water for a profit because the water was so cheap and they could still pay," said Mutara.
He said there were some instances where a single household in Dangamvura high density suburb would use 750 mega litres of water in a month.
There are informal settlements such as Gimbok and Federation which are close to Dangamvura high density suburb but do not have access to tap water.
"You wonder where they were putting this water and there would be no fault to the main supply or meter.
"Definitely, there are some water barons who have been benefitting from very cheap tariffs that we had," said the city boss.
Mutara said there was need to educate ratepayers and stakeholders to use water sparingly and responsibly.
"If you go beyond your consumption, you should be prepared to pay," warned Mutara.
In response to the public outcry, Mutara said council has reduced the rates in the first quarter.
"Having done what we have done as council to try and mitigate against high cost of bills. We also expect the residents to respond in kind by paying the reduced bills. Why, because we need to provide the necessary service to all residents.
"The minimum cost that we have put on the table should be viewed in light of that we complement one another if the service is going to be provided.
"Let the residents pay up because we are owed a lot of money. The impression water tariff is too high is not true. As we compared the bill, we realised that they are very sub economic in certain instances or just a cost recovery," said Mutara.
The acting town clerk said council will put the grievances of residents into consideration adding that council believed quality service delivery came with a cost which is borne by recipients.
"Council shall continue to provide service on account that residents honour up paying the minimum for the service," said Mutara, adding that the local authority was being owed $400 million by residents and stakeholders.
Under the steeped water tariff regime, the council will provide up to three mega litres of free water to high density suburb customers as long as they paid their fixed water charges.
Above three mega litres, customers will pay for their volumetric consumption at a minimum rate of ZWL$31.98 per cubic litre.
Normal or standard water usage for high density property is not more than 26 mega litres beyond which the water tariff becomes punitive.