Alert – BPRA Past Weekend Activities Update (17 & 18 May 2014)

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) this past weekend (17 & 18 May 2014) held five consultative meetings in Bulawayo to provide residents in different wards with an opportunity to meet with their councillors, Members of Parliament and other public officials to discuss critical issues affecting their lives. The meetings were held in Nkulumane constituency, Nkulumane (ward 20), Pumula (ward 17), Emganwini (ward 26) and Entumbane (ward 10). Issues discussed included crime and security, the introduction of prepaid water meters, development within the wards, refuse collection and cleanliness, and various other service delivery issues. The major themes dominating the meetings were as follows:

         Police Address Residents on Crime

Crime took centre stage at the meeting held in Nkulumane (ward 20) where a spate of robberies, murders and rapes have occurred this year. Senior police officers in the community, including the officer commanding Nkulumane were present at the meeting. The police highlighted that they had increased patrols as a means to curb rampant crime in the area. They said they were conducting random searches on people found loitering at night and arresting those found with weapons or without identity documents. Police urged members of the community to also contribute in the fight against crime ad noted that the increase in crime was partly due to the dearth of social capital as residents no longer worked with the police to deter criminals.

         Residents Raise Concerns with the HSCTP

In Entumbane, residents expressed concerns with the implementation of the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer Programme (HSCTP). The HSCTP is a pilot project of the department of Social Welfare that disburses cash to disadvantaged families in six of Bulawayo’s wards, including Entumbane (ward 10). Residents complained that the criteria for selection of beneficiaries for the programme was not clear as poor people were being left out yet other who were better off were getting the assistance. They accused the Child Protection Committee in the area, which is in charge of running the programme of corruption. In 2012, BPRA unravelled corruption in the implementation of the HSCTP in Magwegwe (ward 18) prompting the Department of Social Welfare to intervene. The association shall investigate the issue in Entumbane as a way to promote a culture of accountability, consultation and transparency. 

         Residents Reject Prepaid Water Meters

In Emganwini (ward 26) and Pumula (ward 17), the meetings were dominated by discussions on prepaid water meters, with residents rejecting the gadgets as unsuitable for use in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe at large, arguing that residents are too poor to be able to purchase water in advance. Residents expressed displeasure that the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) did not carry out consultations prior to making the decision to introduce prepaid water meters, which are set to begin with a pilot project in Cowdray Park. They said it was pointless for councillors to inform them about the gadgets if there was nothing they could do to stop the local authority from introducing them. Residents called upon BCC to seek alternative ways of ensuring water availability.

BPRA’s own position on prepaid water meters is that they are undesirable as they place the burden for conserving water on poor people, effectively denying them their right to water yet rich people are free to spend large volumes of water as they can afford it. Prepaid meters are thus discriminatory. BPRA is therefore advocating for BCC to stop its project of installation of prepaid water meters.

The meetings were held in terms of the schedule below:

Ward Meetings

Nkulumane (ward 20)
Mgoqo Primary School
10am – 1pm
Councillor Feedback, Crime in Community
Pumula North (ward 17)
Pumula North Hall
2pm – 5pm
Feedback from Councillor, Water Prepaid Meters
Emganwini (ward 26)
Senzangakhona Primary School
10am – 1pm
Housing, Feedback from Councillor
Entumbane (ward 10)
Entumbane Hall
Service Delivery

Constituency Meeting

Church of Christ
8.30am – 1pm
Constitution Provisions on Women

Information Department
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association
Bus. Tel: +263 9 61196

Cell: +263 772 516 729

Press Release - BCC Should Invest in its Own Census

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)

Press Release

Date:               15 May 2014
Contact:         Emmanuel Ndlovu
                        Advocacy and Programmes Manager
                        0775 233 581
                        Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)

BCC Should Invest in its Own Census

The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has called upon the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to invest in its own census for the purposes of developmental planning in the wake of the release of 2012 national census results that show Bulawayo’s population in decline. BPRA believes the BCC census could be combined with the ‘toilet census’ that the local authority intends to carry out this year. The association has in the past criticized the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) of deliberately under-counting people in the Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions with the aim of allocating less resources to the region. In a press statement after the release the of preliminary census results in December 2012, BPRA argued that: “the results may have been tempered with for political reasons as a basis for reducing resource allocations to the Matabeleland region which has been marginalised since independence.” According to the 2012 census, Bulawayo has a population of 653,337 people down from 676,000 in 2002. The 2002 Bulawayo figures were themselves dismissed as inaccurate by stakeholders from Bulawayo.

BPRA believes it is high time BCC invested in its own census as it has become normal for the national authorities to release census figures that do not augur well with the people of Matabeleland and smack of political agendas to allocate less resources to the region. While the national census has taken on a political outlook, it would be pragmatic for BCC, as the tier of government closest to the residents of Bulawayo, to undertake its own census that would be used for the purposes of developmental planning. This would provide useful data for use at the local level in terms of coming up with a development strategy for the city that covers issues like housing, health infrastructure and water provision. In the context of continued marginalisation of Matabeleland since independence, BPRA believes complaining about census results will not yield positive results as the centralised government is structurally or instrumentally averse to spearheading development in Matabeleland. It is for this reason that BPRA proposes a local census that will enable BCC to plan its developmental projects based on the actual population of Bulawayo.

Population figures are the basis for development planning and therefore allocation of resources. They are also key in determination of the size of constituencies during delimitation of electoral boundaries.


BPRA Advocacy and Programmes Manager

Emmanuel Ndlovu

11 Reasons to Oppose Prepaid Water Meters

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) in 2013 mooted the idea of introducing prepaid water meters in the city, with Cowdray Park’s Hlalani Kuhle area set to serve as a pilot for the project. The decision was made without consulting residents. Privatizing water is therefore not a priority of ordinary residents, but an imposition by bureaucrats in the local authority. The move also endangers the rights of residents to access water by privatizing the precious liquid.
1.       Prepaid Meters Equate to Privatization
Use of prepaid meters essentially converts a public good to a private good, with the water supplier set to reap profits at the expense of the public. The system prioritizes revenue streams to the local authority at the expense of access to water by the residents of Bulawayo.
2.       Prepaid Meters Pervert Demand Management
Prepaid meters facilitate effective demand management in a cruel manner: when you are unable to afford the charge you are simply cut off. Studies have shown that water meters have reduced the demand for water by up to 65% leaving poor people with minimum water for their daily consumption, effectively forcing them to use less water than they actually require. This comes with the risk of diseases such as cholera as poor families are forced to use polluted water.
3.       Prepaid Meters Remove Procedural Protections and Consumer Safeguards
Prepaid meters disturb the social contract between residents and the local authority that provides water. Instead of communicating with BCC, residents will be limited to interactions with their meters. As such, there is no dispute mechanism for instances when meters are faulty while there is no recourse in the event units run out. Once units run out, residents find themselves without water, they can’t lodge complaints. All they can do to get water is buy the requisite units.
4.       Prepaid Water Meters Exacerbate Emergencies
In the event of a fire, a lot of water is needed to put it out – but with prepaid meters, households are likely to find themselves cut off during extinguishing of the fire. The prepaid meter does not understand emergencies. With no fire hydrants, if a fire happens at night one is unable to buy additional water at the store.

5.       Prepaid Meters Undermine Public Health
Prepaid meters force poor families to reduce their water consumption to levels below the amount recommended daily by the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to studies this leads to higher chances of outbreaks of diseases such as dysentery and cholera. The poor are the worst affected as they cannot afford to purchase the required units.
6.       Prepaid Meters are More Expensive
Prepaid meters are sold as a high-tech solution and come at a higher price than traditional water meters. It is thus imprudent to introduce prepaid meters in poor countries such as Zimbabwe that suffer from high unemployment and low remuneration.
7.       Prepaid Meters Increase Conflicts in Communities
Communities traditionally share the burden of providing access to water for all. With prepaid meter however water becomes an individualised marketed commodity and social relations erode when families run out of water as desperation would lead to families ‘stealing’ water from each other. Conflicts over borrowed water that was not returned could also occur.
8.       Prepaid Meters Magnify Inequality and Poverty
Prepaid meters lead to water, a basic commodity, becoming a commodity for the privileged and wealthy while the poor fail to access it in the required quantities. This magnifies inequalities in communities and makes life more difficult for the poor.
9.       Prepaid Meters Violate the Right to Water
Use of prepaid meters denies the poor their right to access water as enshrined in the United Nation’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Pre-paid meters force poor families to use unsafe water sources as they cannot afford to purchase adequate units of water.
10.   Prepaid Water Meters Exacerbate Gender Inequality
When families find themselves unable to pay for prepaid water services, they are forced to use alternative sources of water. This forces women and children backward into the traditional role as water carriers and undermines educational and gender equality gains that can be reached through simple improvements in water supply.
11.   Prepaid Water Meters Abuse Willingness to Pay Against Ability to pay
The World Bank and private companies justify prepaid water meters and state that even poor households are willing to pay increasing tariffs for access to clean water. Aside from addressing the wrong problem, pre-paid water meters do not make access to water cheaper for the poor. This argument abuses the fact that all human beings need water for basic survival. Instead, the ability to pay should be analyzed.