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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Council accuses Chombo of cheap politicking
    Ray Ndlovu, Mail and Guardian (SA)
    July 26, 2013

    In the clearest attempt yet to buy urban votes, Ignatius Chombo, the Zanu-PF minister of local government, rural and urban development, has stepped up the party’s charm offensive and ordered the cancellation of all debt owed to the country’s 92 local authorities by ratepayers. He has backdated the reprieve to February 2009.

    Chombo’s appeal, which is targeted at people living in the cities, is widely seen by political observers as an attempt to win support in the urban areas of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare, where Zanu-PF has performed badly in past elections.

    Using his ministerial powers under the Rural District Councils Act and the Urban Councils Act, Chombo this week said the directive was with immediate effect and in “line with Zanu-PF’s pro-poor policies”.

    “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. Similarly, amounts owed by residents in respect of rates since February 2009 stand prescribed in terms of section 15 of the Prescription Act,” he said.

    Local authorities have been at loggerheads with ratepayers, who claim they have inflated bills in attempts to capitalise their operations since the country abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in favour of a multicurrency system in February 2009.

    While certain to bring relief to ratepayers, the cancellation of the debt may cripple the operations of city councils, which are owed millions of dollars.

    'Cheap politicking'

    The Harare City Council alone is owed nearly $200-million by ratepayers for services, while government departments account for an additional $150-million.

    Official sources at the Harare City Council said the debt cancellation is “cheap politicking” that will hinder its attempt to revive quality service provision to ratepayers.

    Trevor Maisiri, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the announcement would ­constrain the revenue streams of the city councils in the long run.

    “This move is meant to paint the minister as a good person and the councils as a burden. It is an election campaign tactic, which, however, falls short in considering the long-term viability of service delivery in the city councils.”

    Chombo’s inroad into the cities is a departure from Zanu-PF’s traditional campaign strategy, which, for years, has been characterised by winning support in the rural areas by donating food and farming implements to supporters.

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