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City of Harare payment plans (outstanding bills) and comments from the City of Harare, and local government stakeholders
Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
December 13, 2011

Since June this year, City of Harare has been threatening legal action against residents with outstanding bills. The objective was for COH to end up attaching property and recover its revenue through that process. However, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and other civic players acted against this arrangement arguing that it was immoral and illegal for Council to attach property on the basis that there has been no reliable and consistent service provision. The Association noted also that there are questions around the accuracy and authenticity of bills from the time we transited from the Zim-dollar era to the multi-currency system. On the other hand we also appreciate that there are some residents who deliberately default the paying of bills while others are affected by their socio-economic situation considering the high bills charged by COH. Lately, Council has encouraged residents to come forward and make payment plans, a situation which most residents have snubbed sighting that the terms and conditions are unfavorable. Harare City Council is demanding at least 30% of the total debt, which means that if you have an outstanding bill of $1000, you are required to pay at least $300 upfront then negotiate a payment plan over an agreed period. Meanwhile, whilst you are engaged in that plan, you are charged an interest of 7%. CHRA has interviewed various stakeholders on this issue and they had this to say:

Harare City Town Treasurer: "It is ILLEGAL for any district office to demand a down payment before any negotiations of a payment plan starts. Residents cannot be forced to pay a down payment of $500 to settle a debt of $2000 when they failed to pay $30. The interest charge is a normal business practice, you go to the bank, get a loan and you are charged an interest. Our suppliers also charge us an interest charge over a period of 30 days or more."

Deputy Mayor of Harare (Councilor E.Chiroto): "There has been no Council resolution made which compels residents to pay a down payment before the start of any payment plan, in fact it is criminal for any district office to be demanding these down payments. We as a council are in need of revenue and therefore we cannot dictate how much resident's pay. We then can't start to chase them away because the majority of them cannot afford these monies. Residents should be encouraged to come with what they have and negotiate for a payment plan."

Secretary for Local Government in the MDC-T (S. Zvidzai): "it is encouraging to have people pay what they have. This situation has a cumulative effect in that if Council is in agreement of a situation whereby residents can pay even $20 per month towards settling their outstanding debts, City of Harare will realize more revenue at the close of the month and this will actually help because it is in dire need of revenue."

Elected Councilors Association of Zimbabwe Chairman, ECAZ (W. Dumba): "The idea of instructing residents to pay a down payment before making any payment plan is criminal because residents have gone for months and years without services. In Mt Pleasant, residents have not been receiving water but the bills continue to sky-rocket. If you ask a civil servant to pay $200 before negotiating for payment plan it means that for the rest of the month they will not be able to eat or afford going to work! What is happening is that there is a hidden political hand which is operating behind the scenes bent on discrediting MDC councilors. This situation serves to exhibit the fact that Councilors do not have power to control situations like these considering their ceremonial status. There is need for a serious audit amongst council technocrats with regards to their operations."

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Program Manager (Nixon Nyikadzino): "No interest should be charged on residents because of the shoddy service which council was providing. There is no interest which accumulates in a situation where there was non-service provision; in fact it actually means that there were no costs incurred which need to be recovered. The debts should simply be slashed because the reality is that residents do not have that kind of money to cater for the lavish spending of council technocrats at our expense also given that there is no real formula which can be objectively proven to show us how these bills got to where they are now."

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