Gweru residents have given Gweru City Council up to Friday (November 8) to return all illegally removed and confiscated water meters or face mass action from the disgruntled residents.
This comes after the local authority employees, starting last week, were on a Water-meter removal operation for all residents owing the local authority rates arrears, especially in Mkoba.
The city fathers and top management have however distanced themselves from the operation.
Speaking during a Gweru Residents and Rate Payers Association (GRRA) meeting held on Monday in Mkoba, affected residents said they are giving the local authority up to Friday to return the meters as the procedure has been done outside the law.
“All those who had their meters removed should be ready for action because after the time frame we have given them, we will take action,” said one of the residents.
Another resident Mr Lameck Sateko from Ward 13 said this is not the first time the council is doing the illegal meter removals and council should return all meters exactly as they removed them.
“This is not the first time council has done this, we had a High Court issue that had 24 people against Gweru City and the court ruled that what the council did was illegal.
“So as residents we are saying we will unite because if we go individually we will be duped. The Acting Town Clerk knows the person who sent those people to remove the meters and they should send back the same people to put them back house by house.
“We are giving them an ultimatum to return the meters before we we move in to stage a war. We also call upon councillors to represent residents because some of them are no longer coming back to listen to issues affecting residents, and as we speak they said they are not aware of the meter removals,” he said.
The residents collectively directed GRRA leadership to write a letter to council demanding the return of the meters by Friday, among other issues, after which they will meet on Saturday to map the way forward.
Catherine Mutambarika, known as Mai Khumalo, one of the GRRA Ward Committee Chairpersons from Ward 12, said council employees invaded the ward removing the meters house by house last week.
“They came here going house by house removing (water) meters and I had three old ladies who came to my house to inquire what was taking place. I saw three men carrying a sack full of removed meters and when I confronted them they told me that they had so far collected 33 meters and what was I going to do about it.
“Later on a city of Gweru branded car came and the man with the sack emptied the meters into the car and one of them told me that they are doing what they have been directed by council top offices,” she said.
Mai Khumalo said the employees were also demanding cash from the affected defaulters for them not to remove the meters, an allegation that was topical during the residents meeting as the council employees are said to have been demanding at least ZW$40 so that one is not disconnect.
She said as residents are trying to clear what they owe, council should be considerate as there is a high risk of another outbreak of typhoid or cholera.
GRRA director, Cornilia Selipiwe, said council had since apologized to the affected residents on radio and some of the top management have since distanced themselves from the matter but as a residents association they will do as the residents demand.
Selipiwe also said there is a need for council employees to be branded and have their identification displayed as some of them are corrupt, rude and politicizing their work.
Meanwhile, Gweru City is now rejecting initial two year arrears settlement arrangement with residents and now demand new payment plans to be settled within six months.