Councils must challenge debt order: Ngwenya

Local authorities can legally contest the recent order by Zanu (PF)to write off residents’ debts that accumulated between February 2009 and June 2013, says political analyst, Rejoice Ngwenya. “Legally, local authorities can choose whether to cancel debts or maintain them, because the directive by Minister Chombo is not legitimate at law,” he said.

“Zanu (PF) dominated councils are likely to bend towards the order while the MDC would try to contest it – and this is likely to divide councils,” added Ngwenya. A week before the July 31 elections Chombo ordered the 92 rural and urban local authorities to write off residents’ debts that had accumulated between February 2009 and June 2013.

Harare had $400m, Bulawayo $100m, Mutare $20m and Kwekwe 9,5m. Outgoing Harare Mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda described the directive as illegal and said it must be resisted.

“The long and short of it all is that the livelihoods of some 4,5 million people within greater Harare will be put at grave risk if Chombo’s directive is not swiftly nipped in the bud. Section 303 of the Urban Councils Act does not empower him to do something like this,” said Masunda.

Vice President Joyce Mujuru, however, defended the move, telling Zanu (PF) supporters a few days before elections that: “The debts accrued by residents were unjustified and accumulated at a time the country was suffering from the sanctions, illegally imposed on the country by western countries.”

The disputed election saw MDC-T’s grip on urban local authorities significantly reduced, with Zanu (PF) claiming a majority in Marondera, Bindura, Chinhoyi and sharing by half in Kwekwe, Rusape and Plumtree. MDC-T maintained its support base in Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Mutare.

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