BY PATRICIA SIBANDA
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has assumed ownership and auctioned some houses belonging to heavily indebted residents in the city.
This was revealed by BCC finance committee chairperson councillor Tawanda Ruzive, who warned residents to settle bills or risk losing their houses.
BCC is owed over $1,9 billion by defaulting residents.
Ruzive could, however, not be drawn into revealing the number of houses that were auctioned by council over outstanding bills.
The warning by the local authority came after council sent warning letters to residents this month threatening to disconnect water supplies over unpaid bills.
“So, we are dealing with the late ratepayers. Anybody who is a debtor and is in our books is liable. Some houses have actually been taken to court for auctioning,” Ruzive said.
“That’s how serious this is. We know it’s not a good thing to do, but when someone is very negligent and not willing to come to council to negotiate, we are left with no option, but to use the credit policy, and we are going to be using this all the way.”
He said council was struggling to provide efficient services because of failure by residents to settle their debts.
“Because we don’t collect that money, come next year, we will be forced to increase our supplementary budget, to cover for those who are not paying. It’s very unfair to those that are paying. There are some tenants who pay landlords US$400 to US$500 in the eastern side, but those landlords, fail to pay rates and water bills to the council.”
The BCC finance committee chairperson said defaulters had increased, adding that council had introduced a credit control policy to recover its monies.
“We are owed $1,9 billion by defaulting residents.
That money impacts a lot when it comes to service delivery. So, we have been on a drive to make sure that we fully allow management to use the credit control policy,” Ruzive said.
“The credit control policy has been implemented for a long time.
We know that our residents are going through a very difficult time, however, we also realised that we are shooting ourselves in the foot because some residents religiously pay their bills, while others do not.”
He said council managed to collect over 80% of the amount owed.
“Our biggest challenge is that the debts surged from $1,7 billion in the past month to $1,9 billion. The council is reacting harshly to residents that owe it since 2020, and is following up on the debts,” he said.