Zinwa switches off govt, councils for dodging $1,5 billion bill

By Nkosana Dlamini

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has made sweeping disconnections on government ministries and councils which are in default of bill payments of a combined total of $1,5 billion dollars.

This was revealed Wednesday by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement minister Anxious Masuka.

The minister said as of 30 July 2021, Zinwa was owed ZW$2.4 billion by institutions that continue to receive portable water supplies but continued to dodge payments.

“The major debtors to ZINWA are Government institutions (42%) and Local Authorities (22%) of the $2.4 billion,” he said.

Government departments owe just over $1 billion, local authorities $507 million, irrigators $394 million, domestic through to even churches.

Added the minister, “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 issue notices of cessation of service to defaulting customers.”

Among culprit ministries are Local Government, which owes $31 million to Zinwa, Home Affairs ($210 million), Defence ($363 million), State Security ($2 million), Justice ($142 million), Health ($192 million).

The debt has impacted negatively on the operational effectiveness and efficiency of ZINWA which is burdened with huge operational costs amounting to ZW$643million against collections of ZW$200million (31%) at the national level.

The major cost drivers in Zinwa are chemicals (ZW$96million) monthly, repairs and maintenance (ZW$200million) and Energy (electricity and fuel) (ZW$161 million) accounting for 71% of the monthly costs.

Salaries and wages constitute 25% of the monthly costs.

These were contained from 55% of total monthly cost in 2019 to 25% as of June 2021.

Masuka mentioned Beitbridge and Gwanda owe ZINWA ZW$407million out of the total ZW$507 million owed by all the 92 municipalities in the country.

The two owe 80% of the ZINWA debt for Local Authorities.

The non-payment of bills, according to the minister, has affected Zinwa’s capacity to deliver its mandate including the drilling of 35,000 boreholes for marginalised rural communities to support the transformative Presidential Rural Horticultural Programme and improve access to clean, safe water by these communities.

This has denied millions of rural communities their basic right to water.

Said Minister Masuka, “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.”

Meanwhile, water supply has been restored to all the institutions that were disconnected during the past week following pledges by the Finance Ministry to avail “a total of ZW$350 million immediately”.