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Harare billing in shambles
Phyllis Mbanje, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
October 20, 2013

Residents last week accused the Harare City Council of perpetrating a chaotic billing system resulting in several households getting inflated bills.

Some bills were as high as US$93 per household a month in high density areas but normally they range between US$15 and US$40 a month depending on individual usage.

But council spokesperson, Leslie Gwindi said the local authority will continue with water disconnections despite concerns by the residents.

Costa Murombedzi of Harare’s Kuwadzana 7 suburb said it was unfair for the council to disconnect water without addressing concerns regarding the billing system.

“As residents, we are not happy with the system being used to bill us, council should also consider separating rates from the water account,” he said.

The water account - which is made up of a minimum charge and a metered or estimated reading - is inclusive of rates, sewer fees and refuse removal.

Some residents that had not paid their rates were last week caught unawares by council officials who went around switching off water supplies in several suburbs around Harare.

Simba Makazho of Dzivaresekwa suburb said while residents were willing to pay up, council had a responsibility to ensure that the billing system was correct.

“It is high time council puts its house in order and their first port of call should be the billing system. We have no confidence in it,” he said.

The issue of billing became emotive following reports that seven council employees from the revenue and central accounts department were fired while one was arrested for manipulating the city’s billing system.

The culprits scanned and issued fake receipts to consumers whose accounts would not be credited even though they would have paid.

Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director, Precious Shumba said disconnecting water for residents who used it for domestic purposes was unjustified.

“Residents are willing to pay for what they would have used but there are many issues that are making them resistant, like the billing system,” he said.

“It is receiving a lot of criticism and that is one of the major reasons why people are not willing to pay.”

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