CHRA educates residents on illegality of debt collectors

As debt collectors continue to wreak havoc in Harare, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in conjunction with the Community Water Alliance (CWA) on January 26, 2017 held a community meeting in the high density suburb of Glen Norah with the objective of educating residents on the illegality of debt collection by their local authority.

The meeting, attended by about 200 residents, was held at Specimen shopping center.

The Harare City Council has enlisted the services of Wellcash (Pvt) (Ltd) debt collectors who are issuing threats of court action or imprisonment in the event that residents fail to pay their debts to the local authority.

Some residents have had their property attached as well.

During the meeting, residents expressed concern that they had become victims of daylight robbery as Wellcash debt collectors was charging an extra 10 percent of what they owe to council.

The residents said they were living in fear of imprisonment as well as losing their property to the debt collectors.

Said Sarah Mufandaedza (61), “The debt collectors threatened that they will attach my property or have me imprisoned and I was left with no option but to run around for money to service my debt. I was however surprised to discover that the money that had been deducted was less than what I had paid. This is daylight robbery and we really need assistance.”

Another resident, Piniel Mhlanga (49) said it was unfair for Harare City Council to unleash debt collectors on residents when they were using estimates for water charges and in some instances, overcharging “poverty stricken residents”.

“To make matters worse, refuse collection is poor while the water supply is erratic yet council expects us to pay for services that they do not provide. We are being short changed and as if that is not enough, council decides to attach our property,” said Mhlanga.

Legal practitioner, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Kadzere, Hungwe and Mandevere legal practitioners told the residents that it was unlawful for the Harare City Council to unleash debt collectors on residents.

He urged residents to use available channels such as residents associations to seek recourse.

“In Zimbabwe, there is no Act of Parliament that allows debt collectors to attach property or issue threats on behalf of creditors. In other words, what the debt collectors are doing is very much unlawful and should be challenged,” said Chinopfukutwa.

Combined Harare Residents Association Community Officer, Reuben Akili reaffirmed the residents’ association’s commitment to protect residents against unlawful practices.

“As CHRA, we stand ready to protect residents against unlawful practices and in this case, we are saying that residents must not pay money to debt collectors but to council. What Wellcash debt collectors are doing is unlawful and we call upon affected residents to approach us for assistance,” said Akili.

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