via HRT presses on with rate payment boycott | SW Radio Africa 7 July 2014
HRT presses on with rate payment boycotts The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) has pressed on with rate payment boycotts, urging all residents in Harare to stop paying rates to the city council until the local authority explains how it is using the $144 million loan provided by China Exim Bank to resuscitate water reticulation at Morton Jeffrey Water Works.
In an interview with Talking Harare, HRT Programs Co-ordinator Regina Bakuri urged Harare residents to be bold and demonstrate that they have the capacity to bring council to account. ‘All residents in Harare must unite against an oppressive system that deprives them of their rights to social accountability and proper service delivery. It is disheartening that council borrowed money and mortgaged the loan to residents and yet it is denying residents’ access to the documents and contents of the agreement. So our message is very clear, let us all stop paying bills until council explains to us on its arrangements with the China Exim Bank,’ said Bakuri.
Some residents who spoke to Talking Harare concurred with HRT, saying they have since stopped paying rates in support of the HRT adding that no meaningful services are being provided hence the decision not to pay. ‘We stopped paying the bills, we want council to reveal the contents of the US$ 144 million Chinese loan agreement it signed with the Chinese,’ said Rongisai Zhuga, a resident from Budiriro.
‘We want council to be more accountable and transparent in their handling of public funds especially given perennial reports that most of the money we pay in bills is used to finance luxury lifestyles of council chefs. Why are they refusing to tell us how money is spent?’ Queried Gamuchirai Nhundu of Mabvuku.
Peter Mazuru of Kuwadzana said council has a reputation of signing ‘underhand’ agreements hence HRT’s justification to call for rates payment boycotts, ‘they are against transparency, it is not part of their DNA (sic) and the history is there for all of us to see,’ added Mazuru.
However, other residents who spoke to Talking Harare argued boycotts are not the best solution as this would crumble few services that council has been providing. ‘As for me, I will not boycott rate payments since the council need funds to revamp the collapsed service delivery such as damaged roads and water pipes. If we stop paying, then even the services that we are getting, no matter how minute, will be eroded and we will suffer more,’ said Samatha Mwenye of Mbare.
Others said if they did not pay their bills, council would simply continue to bill them until the arrears accumulate.
Council recently secured $144 million from China Exim Bank and concerns have been raised over the use of the loan in purchasing luxury cars for senior management and project staff as well as the secretive nature shrouding procurement figures. Claims are being thrown left, right and centre that prices were inflated and that the project could cost only $50 million and not $144 million.