Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has waded into the highly-controversial prepaid water meter wrangle by challenging the Bulawayo City Council to clarify its position on the matter.
In a February 12 dated letter addressed to the city council’s chamber secretary, Sikhangele Zhou, ZLHR requested to be furnished with “pertinent information relating to the pre-paid water meter project”, threatening to take a legal route in case their request was ignored.
“We have noted with concern the debate on pre-paid water meters raging in the media, which has been characterised by lack of adequate information for any individual to make an informed opinion on whether or not pre-paid water meters violate the right to access to water,” ZLHR spokesperson, Kumbirai Mafunda said in the letter.
“As an organisation that works for the protection and promotion of rights, including the right to water, we hereby request all the pertinent information relating to the pre-paid water meter project so as to enable us as an organisation and as citizens likely to be affected, to meaningfully engage with the City Council and, or, take the legally available routes to protect the right to water.”
Mafunda said their request was consistent with Section 62 of the Constitution which provides that every Zimbabwean has the right of access to any information held by the government or its agencies at any level.
Mafunda added that so far, the information was required in the interests of public accountability and for the exercise or protection of a right.
Bulawayo residents, led by local civic society organisations last year took to the streets in protest against the council’s move to introduce prepaid water meters.
The local authority has already made its intention to pilot test prepaid water meters which they installed in Cowdray Park’s Hlalani Kuhle area before rolling them out to the rest of the city.
Bulawayo is the only city in Zimbabwe that has so far made a council resolution towards the implementation of the project.
Last week, three pensioners cited the constitutional provision in an urgent chamber application filed with the High Court to reinforce their argument that city council officials could not cut off their water supplies without a court order and without infringing on their basic right to clean, safe potable water
Mafunda gave the Bulawayo City Council seven days to respond.
On February 18, chamber secretary acknowledged receipt of Mafunda’s letter.
“We have sent the letter to various relevant departments for comment, we will come back to you as soon as we get feedback from them,” the chamber secretary’s letter says.
The ZLHR said their interest in the pre-paid water meters was purely part of their objective to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe as well as to encourage the growth and strengthening of human rights at all levels of Zimbabwean society through observance of the rule of law.