Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
Harare City Council has with immediate effect started accepting payments in US dollars, a development expected to improve service delivery, especially the provision of clean water, but the decision to convert such payments to the local currency at the prevailing interbank rate has sparked criticism amid fears that the forex would be looted by council bosses.
This comes at a time when many top council officials including mayor Herbert Gomba are in court, with the bulk of them presently languishing in remand prison after being denied bail on various allegations of corruption.
Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme yesterday said Statutory Instrument 85 of 2020 now empowered council to collect rates and other charges in foreign currency.
“This means all our customers now have an option to pay either in local currency or US dollars.
“The issued receipts will show the prevailing interbank rate conversion,” he said.
“We assure the paying public that the United States dollars would be deposited into a CABS Nostro account.
“Council is being charged in United States dollars for some of the services it procures from suppliers.”
City of Harare is struggling to provide clean water, saying it was finding it difficult to access forex for the purchase of water chemicals, which require foreign currency that has not been readily available.
But Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust, Mr Shepherd Chikomba, yesterday said they feared the forex would be abused by council bosses.
“This is unacceptable; who did they consult? The economy has not dollarised yet.
“They should be focusing on ways for 100 percent revenue collection and of course, service delivery and printing of bills,” he said.
Combined Harare Residents Association director Mrs Loreen Mupasiri-Sani said the green light to charge in US dollars should not be abused.
“The development is welcome as long as this does not give council the green light to increase charges unreasonably like their recent hike of maternity fees,” she said.
Council last week announced a 14-fold increase in clinic and maternity fees.
The clinic fee increases resulted in maternity fees being pegged at US$25 or equivalent at the interbank rate up from $120.
Children consultation fees are now the equivalent of US$3 up from $25, while adults pay the equivalent of US$5 up from $50.