HARARE City Council has intensified debt collection from defaulting ratepayers by disconnecting water services and issuing letters of demand or threats to attach property, causing anxiety among the poor households.
By PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
The aggressive debt collection methods come as the city is now owed $700 million, with monthly revenues dwindling to $12 million.
The city spends $10 million monthly on salaries and wages.
Community Water Alliance director, Hardlife Mudzingwa said the disconnections have been confined to six south-western suburbs in the capital.
“The disconnections have been taking place in Mufakose, Kambuzuma, Glen View, Houghton Park, Kuwadzana and Mbare and unfortunately this has been happening in areas resided by the poor,” he said.
Mudzingwa said they were planning a legal challenge against the disconnections.
“We have filed a court application challenging the disconnections. The cases have been taken up by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and we are waiting for the court ruling.”
City spokesperson, Michael Chideme confirmed the new aggressive stance.
“We are disconnecting water to residents not honouring their debts,” he said.
Chideme said the city was encouraging the ratepayers to service their debts through agreed payment plans.
“Ratepayers should come and negotiate with the city authorities on reasonable payment plans. However, they should stick to the agreed plans so that we do not end up engaging lawyers to attach property for defaulting,” he said.
Slightly above 60% of the debt owed to the local authority is by government departments and corporates. The city, however, has not been as aggressive in pursuing the defaulting departments and companies.
The city’s revenues took a plunge in 2013, when then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo ordered all local authorities to write-off all debts owed by individual ratepayers.
The council has in the past said the decision created a bad precedent among ratepayers, who now think the government would always order debt cancellations ahead of elections.