Mugabe, Chombo bills political gimmick too late: Residents

Residents of Harare, Chitungwiza, Bulawayo and other towns have dismissed ‘directives’ by President Robert Mugabe and Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, that local authorities should write off bills owed them by ratepayers as a ‘too late political gimmick’.

The populist instruction was dismissed as an ill-timed vote buying strategy by Zanu (PF).

Some residents wondered if the instruction would bear fruits since there would be a new government after elections.

In the event that MDC-T forms the next government, the decision might be reversed.

Noddy Chapo of Harare said Zanu (PF) must have implemented the dissolution of municipal and other rates long back if it was serious about the plight of residents.

Residents wondered who would be responsible for the payment of millions of dollars owed financial institutions and other companies by the local authorities, if the bills were cancelled.

The nation was awake to the fact that local authority workers would need to be paid salaries and wages, let alone deserve protective clothing among other capital requirements.

Chapo said Zanu (PF) should have simply taken responsibility over bills owed councils by ratepayers, rather than naively them.

There was general consensus by residents that Mugabe and Chombo should direct their energies towards employment creation to enable residents pay monthly bills.

Some 80 percent of the Zimbabwe manpower is out of employment due to closure of industry, farms and other economic sectors as a result of skewed economic policies blamed on the Zanu (PF) government.

Daniel Chakanyuka of Warren Park told The Zimbabwean that it would have made economic sense, if Chombo had suggested that the bills be at least cut by half.

“It would have been a good idea if the initiative was taken outside the election season. Government should alternatively have subsidised service delivery to residents,” said Chakanyuka.

One Chawatama from Chitungwiza described the Zanu (PF) promise as “blasphemous”.

He said Zanu (PF) had realised that Morgan Tsvangirai would win the presidential election, hence the desperate bid to confuse the already decided electorate.

Minister of Water Resources Development and Management, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, dismissed Chombo’s directive as an impossibility, since a minister cannot “just wake up and announce that bills have been cancelled without consulting other stakeholders”.

Chombo’s calls for ZESA and ZINWA to follow suit were described as unfounded.

Nkomo said no one minister can pass a decision on behalf of another ministry.

“The directive by Zanu (PF) and Chombo in particular was reckless, and this is the way they destroyed the economy through payment of gratuities to war veterans, without consultation, in 1997,” said Nkomo.

Chitungwiza Progressive Residents’ Association Chairperson, Admire Zaya, said the Zanu (PF) directive was long overdue.

He said government should have addressed the issue at the introduction of the multiple currencies, since councils had burdened rate payers with haphazardly estimated outstanding bills.

Some sections of the Chitungwiza community however received the Chombo directive with relief, since the town council recently issued defaulting ratepayers with letters of final demand.

July 22 was the final date of payment, failure of which would result in the issuing of summons against defaulters.

Chitungwiza Town Clerk, George Makunde, said the local authority was facing a critical shortage of financial resources due to non-payment of bills by some residents.

“Defaulting residents incapacitated council’s ability to provide expected quality service to ratepayers,” said Makunde.

Last month, Makunde said Chitungwiza Town Council was owed over $48 million by residents.

He said as a result council was broke and was left with no other option but to issue summons against defaulters.

Mugabe applauded the bills cancellation at his Sunday rally at the National Sports Stadium.

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