BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
CHITUNGWIZA Municipality is owed $411 million by ratepayers who are reportedly hoping that the Zanu PF-led government will resort to one of its populist policies of scrapping off bills ahead of the 2023 elections.
This follows a similar populist directive ahead of the 2013 elections after former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo cancelled all debts owed by ratepayers to local authorities, which resulted in them losing billions of dollars as Zanu PF tried to lure voters.
Chitungwiza council spokesperson Lovemore Meya yesterday told NewsDay that the $411 million debt dated back to the period immediately after residents’ debts were written off in 2013.
“As at May 31, the council was being owed $411 million by ratepayers. The debt dates back to 2013 after the scrapping of debts by all local authorities,” he said.
“We noticed that there are three categories of those who do not pay rates. The first is that of people who just don’t want to pay. The other is of those who hope that their bills will be scrapped like what happened in 2013. The third category is of those people that pay consistently up to a particular period. They stop paying when they start asking why they are paying for services not being provided.
“These get tired and end up feeling that they are paying for service delivery for the majority who do not pay. But in terms of service delivery, we cannot segregate people who do not pay rates. We don’t collect refuse at people’s residence who pay rates only.”
Meya said residents’ failure to pay rates had, over the years, resulted in poor budget performance and hampered service delivery.
“Budget performance has never been above 40%. It has been hovering below that because residents are not honouring their obligations to pay rates,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the revenue collected will not be sustainable in terms of providing services and buying council assets. We can only afford buying small assets such as laptops. Service delivery and buying utility vehicles would be a challenge.”