Harare residents have taken the City of Harare to task over the continually rising bills the municipality is charging them.
This week, the residents took to social media platforms where they demanded answers from city officials over the municipality’s opaque billing.
Residents shared their bills on the Zimbabwe National Organisations of Associations and Residents Trust (ZNOART) Harare Province WhatsApp group describing them as outrageous. Harare Mayor Ian Makone, his deputy Councillor Kudzai Kadzombe, and town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango among other senior council officials are members of the group.
The residents were responding to a video of acting Harare revenue manager Mr Alfred Guni urging residents to pay their bills to ensure the council has money to fund service delivery.
In the video shared on residents’ online platforms, Mr Guni advised residents about the various ways including mobile money and mobile banking they could use to pay their bills.
However, residents felt the city was taking advantage of residents who religiously pay their rates and punishing them by slapping them with high bills.
“Deputy Mayor, is it a crime to pay your bills regularly? Honestly, this is not consumer encouraging. Now I have a bill with interest on arrears just a few days after complaining about the exorbitant figures and clearing my account. What’s this?” asked one resident from Rugare.
Another resident said Harare’s billing system is in shambles and the city is clearly robbing residents while others asked Cllr Kadzombe if it was possible for the city to introduce pre-paid water meters in view of the disputed water bills the council is sending residents.
Cllr Kadzombe referred the questions to Eng Chisango who did not respond to the residents’ inquiries despite being present on the online platform where the discussions were taking place.
Residents also wondered why the bills included high water charges when they don’t receive municipal water.
Some declared that they will no longer be paying council bills if the muddy billing is not explained because the council is also not offering refuse collection services.
The residents said council is actually being lenient with those with arrears and instead punishing ratepayers who honour their obligations.
“I don’t think from today I will continue paying bills because it’s unfair. Those with arrears are being charged less than those who are paying,” said a disgruntled resident.
Added another resident: “The current billing system is a money-making means for the council. I say this because those who pay are being made to pay extra. This has been a complaint for years but council ignores it. We are told to pay to get services, we pay and pay and even clear (balances) but we still have debts.
“We demand a system that is better.
“We are tired of this. I raised this before and others are also complaining now. This is why we then opting for private players because this is ridiculous.”
Ward 41 residents said they buy water almost every day but still get high water bills yet their taps are perennially dry.
“My concern is that in Ward 41 we buy water every other day then we still have to pay these huge bills. Guys, it’s really not fair, if only we would get water and… (refuse collection) services and we have been complaining yet zero action to our pleas,” said a Ward 41 resident.
ZNOART officials promised residents that they will engage council spokesperson Mr Stanley Gama and Eng Chisango to have an online question and answer session over the billing complaints.
“The ZNOART Harare Provincial leadership in the spirit of fairness on the issue of the City of Harare billing system will be having Mr Stanley Gama, City of Harare spokesperson on the programme ZNOART Official Engagement very soon. So residents all our issues which we would want addressed will be dealt with. Our wish as residents is to have all these issues ironed out fairly,” read a message from the ZNOART leadership.
Last year a city official told Suburban that council penalises residents who are paying their rates and service charges by raising their bills to cover up for the defaulting ratepayers.
The official said a small percentage of residents pay their monthly bills leaving the municipality with a paralysing deficit and unable to fund services.
“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 last year.