BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) disconnected water supplies to government ministries and local authorities over non-payment of bills amounting to ZW$2,4 billion (US$28 million).
As of July 30, 2021, Zinwa was owed ZW$2,4 billion, crippling the parastatal’s operations.
Government ministries owe ZW$1 billion (US$11,6 million), councils (ZW$507,3 million, around US$6 million), irrigators (ZW$394,1 million, around US$4,6 million), domestic users (ZW$251 million, around US$3 million), mining companies (ZW$80,7 million, about US$943 000), parastatals (ZW$77,1 million, about US$900 700), schools (ZW$44,1 million, about US$ 515 000), businesses (ZW$39,5 million, about US$461 000), industries (ZW$11,8 million, about US$138 000) and churches (ZW$5,1 million, about US$60 000).
In a letter dated August 4, 2021, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement minister Anxious Masuku said the debt was crippling Zinwa funds for chemicals, fuel, electricity and maintenance costs.
“Zinwa’s monthly obligations amount to ZW$643 million (US$7,5 million) against collections of ZW$200 million(US$2,3 million) (31%). The major cost drivers in Zinwa are chemicals (ZW$96 million, about US$1,1 million), repairs and maintenance (ZW$200 million) and energy (electricity and fuel) (ZW$161 million, about US$1,9 million) accounting for 71% of the monthly costs. Salaries and wages constitute 25% of the monthly costs. The major debtors are government institutions (42%) and local authorities (22%),” the letter reads.
The minister said with the souring debt of ZW$2,4 billion against increasing demand for provision of portable water services to various consumers and escalating costs, Zinwa was left with no option but to cut off defaulting customers.
Before the intervention of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to pay ZW$350 million (US$4 million), Zinwa had in all provinces switched off water for the ministries of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Public Works and National Housing, Transport and Infrastructure Development, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement and Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
The ministries of Public Services Labour and Social Welfare and Higher and Tertiary Education were also affected.
Other debtors who were switched off include Beitbridge Town Council, Gwanda Town Council, ZimParks and National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Beitbridge and Gwanda owe ZW$407 million (US$4,7 million) out of the total ZW$507 million (US$5,9 million) owed by local authorities, representing 80% of council debts.
Water was then reconnected to government departments against a commitment from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to pay ZW$350 million.
“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development allocates funding to ministries to enable them to service their utility bills. However, the respective ministries and departments do not timeously remit the funds to Zinwa for water consumed. In some instances, the ministries and departments simply neglect to pay their obligations,” the letter reads, in part.
“Water supply has been restored to all the institutions that were disconnected during the past week after payment and/or submission of credible payment plans. All government institutions and departments have been reconnected against a commitment from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to pay a total of ZW$350 million, immediately.”
Masuka wrote to all ministers on July 21, 2021 to inform them of these impending inconveniences, should they fail to settle their debts.
However, many of the consumers were not responsive to the notices issued prior to disconnection.
The Office of the President and Cabinet, ministries of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Health and Child Care and TelOne responded positively by making payments and submitting reasonable payment plans. These institutions were, therefore, not disconnected.
Zinwa paid tribute to rural centres such as Tongwe, Shambwe, Chasvingo, Ntalale, Guyu, Mananda, Ntepe, Kezi and Mbembeswana around Gwanda Town, for paying on time.
“However, their payments cannot sustain the operations for Beitbridge and Gwanda whose monthly water requirements and payment history are shown in Beitbridge made a single payment of ZW$14,8 million (US$173 000) in June 2020, the only payment it made between January and July 2021, leading to a cumulative debt of ZW$198,3 million (US$2,3 million). For Gwanda, the debt accumulated from ZW$16 million (US$187 000) in January 2020 to ZW$ 181 million (US$2,1 million) in July 2021. The only major payment was a set off of a stand valued at ZW$12 million (US$140 000) in October 2020, otherwise payments are about ZW$2 million (US$23 300) monthly and very inadequate,” the letter reads.
Beitbridge municipality submitted a payment plan for ZW$20 million (US$233 600) per month and services and Gwanda municipality has submitted a payment plan for ZW$5 million (US$58 000) per month for water bills and services were also restored on Tuesday.
Zinwa said it could take over the supply of water from the two councils from source to the household, given the incapacity by Gwanda and Beitbridge local authorities to sustainably supply water to residents.