Mistrust resurfaces over $56bn debt claim

02 Dec, 2022 - 00:12 0 Views
Mistrust resurfaces over $56bn debt claim Town House


Suburban Reporter 

THE City of Harare says the figure it is owed by individual and institutional ratepayers continues to balloon and is now more than ZWL$56 billion but property owners continue to dispute the amounts.

Last week, acting town clerk Engineer Phakamile Mabhena Moyo said as of September 30 this year, the municipality is now owed more than ZWL$56 billion by individual ratepayers, Government departments, businesses and dormitory towns.

The amount has more than trebled from the ZWL$16,8 billion council claimed it was owed in January this year.

Eng Moyo said the galloping debt has adversely affected service delivery as ratepayers and residents are the ones who fund service delivery.

Addressing councillors at the Finance and Economic Development Committee induction workshop recently, Eng Moyo said effective service delivery is at the centre of the city’s existence as a local authority but council continues to be saddled with the effects of a huge debtor’s book.

“At the centre of effective service delivery is always people, processes, systems, financial and material resources. 

“The increasing demand for quality services from our stakeholders requires that we continuously work together to find innovative ways to fund our budget and increase our capacity to deliver,” he said.

The acting town clerk said despite the huge debtor’s book council has embarked on a massive recapitalisation programme which has seen it procuring service delivery vehicles, tractors, front end loaders, refuse compactors and other plant and machinery.

Council’s ZWL$56 billion debt claim has seen the resurfacing of mistrust between the ratepayers and property owners and the municipality.

Ratepayers, particularly residents, keep querying the municipality’s billing because they are being charged for services that are not being delivered.

The residents cited water and refuse collection in particular, which they said they are continually being billed for even when they are not getting the services.

Other property owners accused the City of Harare of punishing paying ratepayers at the expense of the defaulters. 

The aggrieved ratepayers said despite being up to date with their payments they keep being lumped with astronomical bills which they wondered where the council was taking them from. 

In June this year, the municipality admitted that it was, in a way, penalising residents who are paying their rates and service charges by raising their bills to cover up for the defaulting ratepayers. 

A city official told Suburban a small percentage of residents were paying their monthly bills leaving the municipality with a paralysing deficit and unable to fund services.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that the municipality’s charges which have drawn concern from paying ratepayers were higher than normal rates because the local authority was trying to keep afloat. 

“Council is now penalising the law abiding citizens, who are paying their bills. Council is increasing bills so that a small percentage which is paying their bills can cover for the others who are not paying, which is just not fair,” the council official admitted.

Residents said council needs to explain its figures because some of them have been paying bills religiously but continue to receive bills as high as ZWL$264 000.

The residents argued that council was in fact owing them because it has a tendency of punishing those who loyally meet their dues every month. Some in Ward 41 said they continued to pay for water which they were eagerly waiting for while the Mayor Jacob Mafume and his councillors “pretend as if we are in paradise”.

However, other residents felt that for the city to provide services ratepayers must foot their obligations for the municipality to provide the high standard services they envisage.

But the critics wondered why they should be required to continue paying when they have been doing so for the past two years without getting a drop of water in their taps. 

In discussions on the Ward 41 service delivery WhatsApp group, suggestions were proffered that ratepayers should continue paying because they did not pay for water only but other services as well. 

 Those making the suggestion, however, pointed out that council must then be held accountable and manage its resources fairly because some suburbs always have water while others have gone for years without council tap water resulting in disease outbreaks.

The critics were still not convinced saying as much as they wanted the City of Harare to provide the services they want they could not pay continuously with no service forthcoming.

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