Mutare council survives on borrowing

The local authority is surviving on borrowing, but this is unsustainable says the Mayor, Tatenda Nhamarare.

Mayor Tatenda Nhamarare: council’s borrowing unsustainable.
Mayor Tatenda Nhamarare: council’s borrowing unsustainable.

“In order to survive, council has resorted to borrowing in the accumulation of arrears, which is not sustainable,” said Nhamarare during the launch of a mobile text messaging platform meant to improve service delivery.

The local authority owes several banks millions of dollars and has turned to the international community for funding support. But it is struggling to secure more loans from international developmental partners after the staff misused a $100 million envelope, which they are struggling to repay.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently slammed the city management for the misappropriation of the $100 million, which he said was used to acquire luxurious vehicles for council management.

“The municipality is not performing well yet it is charging higher rates and not concentrating on repaying the $100 million. Instead of buying cars, you should make an effort to retire the loan so that you can access more loans,” he said.

The accumulating loans as a resulting of extensive borrowing owing to lack of adequate budget allocations from government has left the council in financial quicksand.

In a bid to find home-grown solutions, the local authority resorted to slashing 50 percent of arrears to residents to encourage them to at least settle half of their debt.

This resolution, which was introduced by Provincial Affairs Minister Mandi Chimene, was finally passed by the local authority and announced by town clerk Obert Muzawazi in a recent statement.

Meanwhile, the local authority has launched a mobile text message hotline platform called the Mutare City Dialogue and Technology for Accountability (M-Data) meant to improve service delivery.

The M-Data project was established with the assistance of two developmental partners – PACDef and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The online system was created by software developing company Afrosoft Corporation after the three partners faced undisclosed challenges with Econet Zimbabwe, which was initially supposed to write the system.

Nhamarare said the new online system would expedite service delivery and build strong ties between council and residents. “Through the SMS hotline council is expecting to improve communication with residents and other stakeholders. We urge citizens to use the platform to alert us to any faults or complaints. This will help the local authority to respond with haste to any reported faults with,” said the mayor.

He added that it was of paramount importance for residents to embrace the new system in order for it to work. Afrosoft chief executive officer, engineer John Mberi, said the online interface allows residents to send complaints, faults, suggestions or compliments to council as well as check their account, arrears and monthly current balance.

Residents can simply send texts to 34452 directed to short codes of the local authority’s six departments, namely Town Clerk (TOC), Chambers Secretary (CHS), Finance (FID), Housing (HSE), Health (HLT) and Engineering (ENG) departments.

He added that the project had attracted great interest from other local authorities facing service delivery challenges.

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