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Ratepayers cautious as minister Chombo orders debt write-off
Gonda, SW Radio Africa
July 23, 2013
View this article
on the SW Radio Africa website
been raised after Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo instructed
the country’s 92 local authorities to cancel all debt owed
journalists Monday that the directive was with immediate effect,
and was in “line with Zanu-PF’s pro-poor policies”.
Using his ministerial
powers under the both the Rural District Council Act and the Urban
Councils Act, Chombo said: “Councils are directed to write
off debts in respect of rentals, unit tax, development levy, refuse
charges and water and sewer fees as at June 30, 2013.
amounts owed by residents in respect of rates since February 2009
stand prescribed in terms of section 15 of the Prescription Act,”
minister said the move was meant to bring relief to ratepayers whom
he said were suffering as a result of illegal sanctions and local
authority mismanagement by the MDC.
In May, then
Harare City Council Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda revealed that the local
authority was owed $162 million for rates and services, with government
departments accounting for $130 million of this debt. It is unclear
whether Chombo’s order extends to government departments as
move has been cautiously welcomed by ratepayers, with many questioning
the timing of the write off, just eight days before a watershed
Chombo’s announcement on Facebook, former journalist Methuseli
Moyo wrote: “IZnau iyazenza izinto (Zanu-PF never ceases to
amaze), they’ve just cancelled $500 I owed the Bulawayo City
Council. But the timing speaks for itself.”
that it was nothing more than vote-buying being extended to urban
constituencies, with Dorothy Ncube writing: “In the rural
areas they are using food parcels, and for urban dwellers, it’s
the directive to a donkey that comes to one’s homestead bearing
a bag of maize: “You take the bag and let the donkey go,”
said Mthabisi Dube.
said this was a clever act by Zanu-PF: “They know that no-one
will dare question this without running the risk of being unpopular
with voters ahead of the election.”
however questioned the wisdom of the minister’s order, saying
this was going to affect local authorities’ revenue inflows
and their capacity to procure water treatment chemicals among other
things. These are the policies that bring the country to its knees,
as we saw with the BACOSSI,” Jacobe added.
(Basic Commodity Supply-Side Intervention) was part of Reserve Bank
governor Gideon Gono’s quasi-fiscal policies that also became
an important campaigning tool and a carrot to reward those who voted
for Zanu-PF in 2008.
SW Radio Africa
was not able to get reactions from the Harare City Council as the
phone in Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi’s office was not being
Council’s public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu said the directive
had not yet been officially communicated to the authority and as
such, she could not comment.
director at Harare
Residents’ Trust which led the petition for the debt cancellation,
said rate payers were happy that their petition had been granted.
October 2012 we petitioned the authorities to cancel all debt accrued
from February 2009 to December 31st 2010 – a period we strongly
believed was most difficult for residents and no tangible services
were rendered during this period.
believe that from 2011 people would have recovered financially to
be able to pay their rates. What we have always contested is to
ask people to pay for services that were not rendered,” Shumba
feel that the timing is suspicious, and we also view with caution
the fact that the directive wasn’t in writing, and is yet
to be communicated to us or the authorities. Any incoming council
can reverse the verbal order,” Shumba said.
expressed concern that the directive comes at a time when authorities
are being run by caretaker commissions, following the expiry of
the life of parliament on June 29th.
He said the
announcement should have been made during the tenure of elected
councilors, to ensure the cancellation was factored into budget
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