It’s time ratepayers collectively withheld municipal payments until service provision improved

To say that I am thoroughly angered with the manner in which we, as ratepayers in the small town of Redcliff, are being mistreated and abused by our local authority, would be the understatement of the century.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

I am extremely infuriated, and severely enraged – as we reach the shameful two-week mark without any running water in our homes – in spite of the latest broken promises, by our local authority, assuring us that strides had been made in ensuring that we immediately received the precious life-giving liquid.

Yet, absolutely nothing has been forthcoming.

With this perennial failure, of a grand, disgraceful, and unacceptable magnitude – not only in our own little town of Redcliff, but generally most urban areas across Zimbabwe – those of us, who are faithfully paying our rates and other municipal bills, are undoubtedly left wondering why we should continue folding our arms, when we are clearly being given the short end of the stick.

Indeed, our own local authority (as is the case with every other municipality in the country) have always found it convenient to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of those defaulting residents, who have, admittedly, constantly and unashamedly reneged on their obligations to pay for services received from their councils – resulting in the inability to provide such essentials as water.

This may appear (on the surface) as quite a plausible and credible explanation – since, frankly speaking, how can anyone expect services which they are not paying for, and how are our local councils supposed to pay for such things as water (which, in the case of Redcliff, is bought from the nearby city of Kwekwe), when residents are not playing their part?

Sounds like a nice little explanation, doesn’t it?

But, let’s hold it right there!

What about the rest of us, no matter how few, who are faithfully meeting our end of the bargain, by religiously paying our rates and other municipal bills?

What happens to us?

Are we to just continue paying for services that are not forthcoming – which, to us, appears as an cruel form of collective punishment for other people’s failures and shortcomings?

That doesn’t seems fair now, does it?

We hardly miss a month without paying for the water we have used. We are also made to pay a fixed water charge – clearly for water we have not used – yet, we seldom receive any of that section 77 constitutionally-enshrined right.

What is happening to the money we are paying for public lighting, and refuse collection – which are practically non-existent?

Yet, our local authorities never appear to run into any financial challenges when it comes to their salaries (which can be insultingly hefty, particularly for the top brass), as well as their own little luxuries and perks, such as vehicles, stands, and even numerous over-priced laptops from a well-known outlet, amongst a whole lot of other extravagances.

Such handsome perks (at ratepayers’ expense) have even enabled our so-called ‘city fathers and mothers’ to drill their own private boreholes – effectively shielding themselves from the damning and painful consequences of their own misgovernance and mismanagement – whilst, those of us, who pay both for water, and their salaries, are abandoned to the indignity of begging neighbors who have alternative water sources.

Where does that money come from?

As ratepayers – especially, those of us who, each month, have had to fork out our hard-earned cash (more so, under the prevailing hostile economic environment) – we need our local authorities to be held accountable for each and every cent.

We need to know why money for other things is readily available, yet there suddenly is nothing for water – notwithstanding the fact that there are still those stubborn freeloading defaulters, who always want to reap where they never want to sow.

In fact, some of these defaulters were faithful ratepayers, who became disenchanted by the lack of service provision – in spite of regularly paying their bills.

Understandably, who would not be discouraged, when one believes he is fulfilling his civic duty, by making payments – yet, in return, never receiving what he is entitled to?

That is why I strongly believe that it is imperative that we also exercise our rights to withhold our hard-earned monies – until we can be guaranteed that we will get what we pay for.

Just as with workers – who have the right to refuse to come to work, not out of sheer absenteeism, but collective job action – ratepayers should also notify their local authorities of their intentions to cease paying their bills, until certain conditions have been met.

This needs to be done in an organized fashion – so as to distinguish between those who are merely defaulting on their obligations, and those of us, who are (and have always been) prepared to pay, but simply demand issues surrounding accountability sorted out first.

All of us need to play our part for our respective towns and cities to progress and develop – however, the onus can never be on ratepayers alone, as municipalities also need to be answerable to the people they lead.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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