By A Correspondent- Gweru residents went for a third straight day yesterday without running water after Zesa cut power supplies at Gweru City Council’s water treatment plants over non-payment of a $247 million debt.
Zesa disconnected power at the city’s treatment plants at two of its main water sources, White Waters and Gwenhoro dams.
Zesa also disconnected Town House resulting in council failing to collect revenue.
Council was forced to resort to a generator which was reportedly running out of fuel.
In May last year, Zesa switched off council’s water treatment plants over a debt of $143 million and only restored supplies after the local authourity committed to a monthly payment plan of $13 million.
White Waters water treatment plant feeds areas such as Ridgemont, Riverside while the rest of Gweru is fed from Gwenhoro dam that is pumped at the Range booster.
The development is exposing residents to risk of diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery as they resort to unsafe water sources.
Some residents are taking advantage of the rains by harvesting water from rooftops.
Some have turned to boreholes.
In a notice to members of the public, acting town clerk Mr Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe apologised to Zesa and the residents for the power cut.
“We would like to apologise to ZETDC for earlier advising that there is a power outage at the Range booster. The correct information is that as a local authority we have been cut off by ZETDC at the Range booster, White Waters waterworks, and TownHouse for non-payment of electricity bills,” he said.
He said they had engaged Zesa for a payment plan adding that water supplies would be restored once power is restored.
“We owe Zesa about $247 million and we are working on a payment plan,” said Mr Chikwekwe.
Zesa Southern Region general manager for Gibson Kasipo yesterday declined to comment, referring all questions to the local authority.
A Zesa official speaking on condition of anonymity said, “Out of all the money unpaid by ZETDC customers in the Midlands province, the city of Gweru owes 40percent alone. Several letters were written to council requesting them to come forward and make a payment plan but they didn’t respond.”
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association director Mr Cornelius Selipiwe said while it was the local authority’s duty to pay its power bills, Zesa as another public entity should avoid endangering residents’ lives through disconnecting power at the water pump stations.
“Gweru residents, at home and in clinics or hospitals need to have access to clean and safe water and that right is infringed when they go for three days like in this case without running water. I think Gweru and Zesa bosses should have taken time to at least find each other before the later endangered residents’ lives,” he said.
The shutting down of the councils’ water pumping stations and the administrative offices has once again exposed the vulnerability of city finances exacerbated by non-payment of rates by ratepayers.
GCC is battling to recover about $1billion in unpaid bills by residents, commercial and Government entities.
Over the years, the GCC budget has been underperforming due to low appetite by residents and other stakeholders to pay their bills.
Due to non-payment of bills by ratepayers, the city council was now struggling to clear its debt to service providers, particularly its three major creditors, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), ZETDC and the Local Authorities Pension Fund (LAPF).
The latest setback comes barely a fortnight after the city elected a new mayor, Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi, who replaced Dr Josiah Makombe, who was recalled from his position by the MDC-T.-statemedia