And now, prepaid water? Council needs to avoid these 3 ZESA mistakes

Victor Mukandatsama Avatar
City of Harare Water Meters, Prepaid Meters

When ZESA introduced the prepaid electricity sometime in 2012 the move was welcomed as it would allow electricity to continue being generated while revenue collection was assured. There are several mistakes however that came with the type of technology that they used on the prepaid meters. Basically, they installed dumb terminals at each and every home.

When the time came for selling the tokens, it turned out that you cannot directly top up your electricity from the various mobile and e-commerce platforms such as Ecocash directly. The exclusion of these platforms meant that at some point, one has to either write the recharge key down, have it SMS-ed or have it printed on a receipt for use on the prepaid meter. workarounds have since been worked and virtual all commerce platforms can work, one way or another.

But why these workarounds that ultimately increase the cost at every node, especially the need to setup a dedicated connection to the token server.

Another opportunity has presented itself where the authorities will be trailing some 100,000 prepaid water meters shortly. While we will not discuss the humanity side of the argument that is underway with pressure groups, seeing as this is a project already set to happen, we will instead point out a few notes from the ZESA experience.

Smart meters versus regular meters – The current dumb terminals have limited functionality and a host of challenges we dwelt on before. ZESA eventually woke up to this reality and tendered for smart meters but the tender was however canceled because of the Mavhaire saga.

Smart meters would open up a lot of opportunities such as direct integration with mobile money. They also allow for OTTS like loyalty programs and diary systems (why shouldn’t I get an SMS to let me know my power has depleted). One example of such a system for corporates is direct integration to the accounting system such as Navision and rather than having to pay for tokens for the whole year, they can invest the equivalent and liquidate it in periods via direct transfers. Smart meters also allow for the alternative

Infrastructure Sharing – the Telecoms Infrastructure Sharing debate opened up the opportunity for similar arrangements in areas with cross-cutting effects. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a home to house a water meter, electricity meter, Gas meter and so forth, all requiring some form of infrastructure to be set up. The powers that be should formulate an infrastructure rollout plan that caters for meters that can retail multiple utilities or at least the communication infrastructure that comes with it.

Open reselling – the idea of selecting a few resellers for utilities is a huge inconvenience to the end user. Not only is it expensive as it caters for commissions, but any inabilities such as poor cash flow management by the reseller, or inefficient connectivity have an adverse effect on the whole food chain. Reselling should be opened up to anyone who has the capacity to sell rather than the ZESA situation were popular platforms like Ecocash have been left out.

Whatever plans the City fathers have for this project it would serve everyone a lot of hassles if the mistakes of the ZESA system are not repeated.


  1. mistakes_in_action

    firstly some surburbs havent seen water in decades now the council is essentially losing revenue from the fixed charges they have been enjpying whilst giving nothing to someone. So they need to go back to basics and lower their budgets in any way cz i forsee them losing over 30% in revenue. Since people pay for what they actually get which is nothing.

    1. Victor Mukandatsama

      I personally don’t support the move but when you consider how the move helped ZESA, isn’t this a chicken and egg scenario? Perhaps the assured revenue will enable them to actually pump water. Currently, water is pumped out but no revenue coming back.

      But of course ZESA is not even there anymore.

      1. tinm@n

        Firstly, access to water is a basic human right ( )

        It cannot be compared with electricity. This doesnt mean it should be free. It means, at all costs, it should never be unavailable. It should be classified as an essential service, which should be supplied as a public and NOT COMMERCIAL SERVICE.

        Secondly, the disaster that was ZINWA is the reason for failure of the provision and managing of water supply in all councils.

        Some idiot bright spark thought that they could increase government revenue by ripping away water supply responsibility from councils to one entity, ZINWA.

        They actually devolved to the stoneage by allowing centralising of an essential service that was well-managed in a decentralised manner by the respective municipalities.

        Alot of things then happened to try and correct the situation, but it went from bad to worse as the inept idiots failed to handle logistics of acquiring and maintaining decent stocks of water treatment chemicals.

  2. macd chip

    Forget about those attention seekers called pressure groups.

    Humanity applies where there is humans behaving likewise. People in Zim have money to go partying, drinking etc but they do not have money to pay for bills!

    It might be inhuman bt its necessary so that people start to get back into culture of paying bills not waiting for elections and get their debt cancelled by politicians.

    Back on the issue, lm not yet sure really how this will work, can someone with knowledge explain please the techinical side of things.

    1. Jimminy Cricket

      Hear, hear. Well put.

      Current culture is very much acceptance of mediocrity.

      When something that has a tangible cost is supplied for nothing the cost does not simply go away.

  3. Blamita

    Improve quality of water first!

    1. macd chip

      How do improve quality of water when people are not paying in the first place. Water meters must be put everywhere.

      1. Rr

        True humanity chii pay for the service. It works in sucj a way that you get the lets say 1st 5m3 free(5000l) then you pay beyonf that.
        As mentioned before council needs to get its cost structure aligned cz there are areas that have been charged for water forever vy have never seen water that isnt from a borehole for 30+ years. So council is losing revenue since they will fave a rude awakening as most of their revenue is from water (inglated wrong bills

  4. blaz

    two things you forgot to mention…first unlike in Zesa the council is going to force consumers to buy the meters “in percentages” worth 200
    Secondly, they are going to monitor these meter which we are going to buy and then council claim ownership on them.
    Legally if i buy a meter then its mine correct?

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