Harare residents are questioning the newly introduced 10 percent interest charge on all arrears effected from the end of October saying the charges are confusing because even when they have cleared their balances they are still being slapped with interest charges.
“Good afternoon loyal residents of Greendale. This is to advise you that council has effected an interest charge of 10 percent on all arrears with effect from the end (of) October 2023. Thus anybody who cleared their account to zero after the effected date now has a balance outstanding,” read a message sent to Greendale residents by a City of Harare official in the revenue department on Monday this week.
Residents say they are discovering their accounts are in arrears after checking for their balances using the City of Harare’s online platforms even when they are paid up. The residents described the municipality’s billing as “fishy”.
Residents sought to find out if council had sent a warning before the 10 percent interest charge was effected. Some residents said they were slapped with the interest charge after paying their rates on November 3 despite the fact they had been paying their rates every month without any outstanding balance for several months. They wondered if the 10 percent interest charge “is not daylight robbery by council”.
Highlands residents said they were getting bills as high as over ZWL$2,3 million despite the fact that they use borehole water and private garbage collection companies as no service if forthcoming from the City of Harare. One resident described their bill of over ZWL$2,3 million as a joke.
A Greendale resident said they were charged ZWL$54 000 interest for delaying paying their bill by three days which brought their total bill including the interest charges to more than ZWL$622 000.
Some residents advised fellow property owners to pay for everything else except water and refuse collection if they have boreholes and use private refuse collection companies.
They should then demand reversals on non-provided services, which they have previously been charged, the residents advised. Others said the council demands a borehole permit to reverse water charges.
Property owners queried why the City of Harare is charging interest per month and not per annum.
Another Highlands resident said what was upsetting about the City of Harare’s 10 percent interest charge was that the municipality does not give ratepayers 30 days to pay. The resident said they paid their October bill in November but were charged 10 percent interest without being allowed 30 days to pay. Residents bemoaned council’s decision at a time when it is not providing any services as rubbish is not collected, their taps have no water and roads are collapsing.
Residents said council keeps taking more and more money from them without services with some infrastructure such as street lighting not working for more than 35 years. The residents said council’s move calls for a rates payment boycott or legal action against the municipality over its failure to provide services.
The City of Harare’s billing has been in shambles since 2019 when it stopped using the BIQ system from a South African supplier. The city uses estimates but residents have been challenging the bills saying they cannot be made to pay for non-delivered services.
Ironically, the City of Harare’s acting revenue manager Mr Alfred Guni this week appealed to residents to pay their bills via a video shared on residents’ online platforms and the city’s social media platforms.