CHRA Threatens Court Action Against Harare City Over Water Disconnections

Harare residents under the banner of the Combined Harare Residents Association, (CHRA) have castigated the move by City of Harare to arbitrarily disconnect water across the city over non-payment of rates.

Petitioning the City Mayor, Herbert Gomba, CHRA acting director Loreen Mupasiri-Sani said actions by the city council to effect arbitrary water disconnections to try and force or arm twist residents into paying water bills when they cannot even ascertain payments made by the same ratepayers is not reasonable, unfair and a gross violation of human rights.

“We urgently implore you to desist from this idea of arbitrary water disconnections on the grounds that Section 62 [2] of the Zimbabwe Constitution entitles every person the right of access to any information held by any person, including the State, in so far as the information is required for the exercise or protection of a right,” she said.

She also said that every person has a right to the correction of information, or the deletion of untrue, erroneous or misleading information, which is held by the State or any institution or agency of the government at any level, and which relates to that person.

The petition comes on the backdrop of a massive water rationing exercise which has seen a number of locations in Harare such as Mabvuku and Tafara going for close to 10 years without running water

Mupasiri-Sani added that the absence of a billing system has denied ratepayers access to correct information regarding their water bills accounts.

“We are aware that receipts are being done offline and no updates on payments are being done at the moment yet you are disconnecting water on a debt that you cannot establish. The absence the BIQ system has also denied property owners general information on the status of their accounts,” added the CHRA director.

However, Section 68[1] of the Constitution gives every person the right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, impartial and both substantively and procedurally fair.

“Simple principles of administrative justice require that you act lawfully, fairly and reasonably. It is in our view that your conduct of disconnecting water to coerce ratepayers to service a debt which you cannot establish due to technological failure on your part is unlawful. Furthermore, payments made by ratepayers are not deducted during this “BIQ black out period.
“It is in our view that arbitrary water disconnections are unlawful, illegal and are a clear violation of the right to water. CHRA is not opposed for the City to collect debts, however the strategy or process must be in the confines of the law,” read part of the petition.

The director did not mince her words but made it crystal clear that they were even ready to approach the courts of law.

“By this same letter we have advised our legal practitioners to initiate a court process on our behalf.

“We believe that the Vision 2025 Agenda of Harare attaining its world class status  should be premised and hinged on the City’s ability to respect the constitution of Zimbabwe and International Law Instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant of Socio-Economic Rights and African Charter on Human Rights and it is our hope that you will not continue to violate the law but act swiftly on this matter,” the association fired warning shots.