By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, May 10, 2016 – RESIDENTS in the resort town have accused the local authority of inflating water bills that are mostly based on estimates.
The ratepayers raised the complaints at a highly charged Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association (VICORA) meeting over the weekend where a council official blamed the problem on resistance by residents that were against the installation of prepaid water meters.
Some residents said the estimated bills were not consistent with the size of their families, making them unreasonable.
“We want to know how council comes up with certain charges per month for each household, said one of the residents,” one resident said.
“For instance, at my house, I do not consume much water but I get a very high bill at the end of every month yet my neighbour whose family is much bigger than mine gets charged a minimal amount of money.”
Another resident said he was being billed over $50 a month even though council employees did not take meter readings from his house every month.
“We wonder how council comes up with such amounts when we use water sparingly. We feel council is stealing from us,” he charged.
However, council’s housing director Lot Mumpande said the resistance against the installation of prepaid water meters made it difficult to bill residents fairly.
“Residents are confused about our charges and we understand that but what I think people should know is that in the same water bill, we also include a certain little amount of sewer and rates. At highest cost, water must cost $22 a month, maximum,” he said.
“The problem we face as council is that, most residents especially in high density suburbs do not have prepaid water meters.
“About 1 500 houses do not have prepaid water meters and we charge on assumption though we are working on that (installing meters).
“For instance, some months ago, our workers used to make estimates based on the previous month’s bill and the money will keep increasing but we have said no to that.
“But mistakes are always there; we cannot be perfect on that until prepaid meters are installed.”
A number of councils across the country have been installing prepaid water meters to maximise revenue collections, amid resistance from residents who argue the system would push the cost of the commodity beyond the reach of the poor.
Meanwhile, Victoria Falls residents at the weekend meeting also complained about council’s tendency to give first preference to people from outside Victoria Falls when allocating housing stands.
Some said they had been on the housing waiting list since 1989 but had never been offered any housing stands by council.
Mumpande said council would look into the issue and find ways to accommodate residents who were less privileged.