Newly born babes and their mothers at Beitbridge's district hospital reportedly had to be discharged without a bath after ZINWA recently disconnected fresh water to the last town before the Zimbabwe/South Africa border. At  4 hours of age hospitals gives infants a bath which is important for removing unwanted soil such as blood and a baby's earliest feces called meconium. But for the little ones born recently in Beitbridge a bath like this never happened because there was no water in town.  ZINWA argues that the Beitbridge Town Council had to pay first in order to be supplied water according to the new prepaid water meter system. But Beitbridge said it needed time to first prepare for the prepaid system to which ZINWA said it was too late because it had given the council sufficient time to do so and it would proceed with water disconnection. A prepaid water meter is a water measuring and recording device that require residents to pay first in order for it to allow the supply of fresh water.

But what is its importance to residence especially to those the new water meter's emergency warranted the dishonour of discharging the new guys without the hygienic bath. To this end therefore, it is imperative to seek answers for these important questions.

Urban centers in Zimbabwe and Africa are the world's fastest in terms of expansion because of rural to urban migration and other reasons. New residential settlements are mushrooming all over the urban landscape thereby giving enormous pressure to existing fresh water and sewer systems. As a result local government authorities  are now facing serious challenges in their capacity to supply drinking water that comes in the right quality and quantity.

Those who champion the introduction of prepaid water meter speak about it as a solution to the problems our cities are facing due to rapid growth. Here in Zimbabwe there isnt any better words to summarize these problems than poor quality and quantity of water. If ever there is a way of measuring the effectiveness of this new system then the criteria should be based on the question that, " How far does the prepaid water meter goes in improving the quality and quantity of the drinking water in our towns and cities? "

Quality and Quantity

A prepaid water meter helps a utility to have money by avoiding consumers' debt. This money hopefully is channeled towards improving the quality of water by purchasing sufficient water purifying chemicals and quantity by installing new pumps which are capable of pumping water to all residents.


1.Commodification of water
As what happened in Beitbridge prepaid meters leads to the commodification of water. If water becomes a commodity then the one who has it has legal rights to withdraw it without explanation if a buyer doesn't pay.This is a case of justice but without mercy.

2. Prepaid water meter doesn't cover up for a situation were the overall water management is poor. 

There is more required in order for a prepaid water meter to help in solving the problems of poor water quality and quantity. A distribution network with leaks will become a serious headache especially to the municipality because the water that leaks would have been paid already by consumers. So there is a need for efficient network maintenance personnel who promptly responds to leaks and any problem that waste the water already paid for.   Two, there is need to have good distribution of retail outlets from which residents can efficiently purchase water credit. Therefore, there must be initial capital investments towards the areas highlighted above before a prepaid water meter project is rolled out.

By the time of writing I was yet to receive news about whether ZINWA had reconsidered its tough decision to disconnect Beitbridge over prepaid water meters. But is this gadget so good to us such that it warranted the move taken by the power utility ?

Cain Ndhlovu is a property consultant. Call or whatsapp him on 0772 997 229 about your property management (leases, finding new tenants etc ) issues.


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