Councils crippled over rates policy

The Town Council has complied with a government directive to slash bills accrued by residents from February 2009 to June 2013 but Town Clerk, George Makunde, believes that unless ratepayers make prompt payment of current bills, the council will collapse.

In spite of hefty rates, service delivery has remained poor in Chitungwiza.
In spite of hefty rates, service delivery has remained poor in Chitungwiza.

“Complacency on the part of residents has the potential to cripple our operations. Our creditors have not given us any reprieve and our operations are dependent on the income that we get from residents,” said Makunde.

Since August 1, Chitungwiza residents received bills reflecting current balances of between $15 to $25 per household.

“It is a new bill and we hope that ratepayers will honor their commitment to settling those bills,” he said.

At the height of the election campaign period, Local government minister Ignatius Chombo instructed councils to write off debts as of June 30, 2013.

Chombo told journalists that the move was aimed at implementing Zanu (PF)’s pro-poor policies and sought to bring relief to struggling ratepayers.

Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association Chairperson, Admire Zaya, said the scrapping off of debts was a long overdue initiative.

“The directive was used for political mileage yet it is an initiative that residents’ trusts had been advocating for since the introduction of the multi-currency system. It is a welcome development.”

Harare Residents Trust Director, Precious Shumba said in order for residents to pay their bills the economic situation in the country had to improve.

“There is no way that residents can pay their bills when we still have high unemployment levels and people are earning salaries that are way below the poverty datum line,” said Shumba.

Harare residents owed council close to $400 million in unpaid bills, Bulawayo ratepayers owed council $100 million, Mutare residents owed council $20 million and Chitungwiza residents owed council $30 million in unpaid bills.

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