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CHRA urges Harare Mayor to urgently halt all water disconnections

by Byron Adonis Mutingwende
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The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has urged Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba to “cease all arbitrary water disconnections” across the City in the absence of a billing system.
CHRA described the actions by City of Harare of arbitrarily disconnecting water to arm twist or coerce ratepayers to pay rates when it cannot ascertain payments made by the same ratepayer as not reasonable, fair and a gross violation of human rights.
CHRA implored Harare City Council to desist from the arbitrary water disconnections on the following grounds:
1.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.(3)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 absence of a billing system has denied ratepayers access to correct  information regarding their accounts. We are aware that receipting is 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.
2. Section 68[1] Of the Constitution gives every person has a 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”.
3.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.
Harare City Council was urged to shelve any water disconnections until it has a billing system that is up and running.
“The City of Harare cannot lawfully disconnect water from a consumer unless it has established that the amount claimed is actually due and by the absence of a billing system it is impossible to establish actual amounts due. CHRA is prepared to advance this request to a competent court of law seeking administrative justice. 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 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. It is our hope that you will not continue to violate the law but act swiftly on this matter,” CHRA added.

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