via Residents call for boycott of council bills – NewsDay Zimbabwe. 16 June 2014 by Staff Reporter
June 16, 2014 in News
The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) has threatened to mobilise its members to boycott paying council rates for the next three months in protest over lack of transparency and alleged mismanagement of funds at Town House.
HRT executive director Precious Shumba in a statement at the weekend said the residents were particularly angered by top council officials’ decision to divert part of the $144 million loan for the rehabilitation of water infrastructure towards the purchase of 25 luxury vehicles without councillors’ approval.
The HRT’s threats came at a time the local authority has taken 6 432 residents to court for failing to settle their water bills.
The city has engaged the Messenger of Court and private lawyers to recover more than $254 million owed by ratepayers.
Shumba said: “Under the loan agreement, the City of Harare was required to purchase only eight project vehicles to be used by project staff. Instead, they bought 25 luxury vehicles worth between $50 000 and $250 000 each which was allocated to senior council officials who have already benefited from another loan scheme covering employees in grades 1-4. The Chinese loan must be repaid by you, the ratepayer, with interest through your rates.”
Shumba added: “To stop this arrogant and unaccountable
behaviour at the Harare Town House, you are being (asked) to seriously consider stopping payments for all services by the City of Harare from end of June 2014 to August 2014.
“This forces them to be accountable and transparent in the utilisation of our funds — loans, rates and grants. Your co-operation in this regard will help in create a world-class city that we all want and can live happily in.”
But, council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi said: “We are issuing summons to defaulting residents. The Messenger of Court is going to deal with the matter on our behalf. We have referred some of the cases to our external lawyers.” Gwindi said those issued with summons should immediately make payment arrangements or risk their property being attached.
Residents owe the city $105 million, government $16 million, industry and commerce $130 million. Chitungwiza, Norton, Ruwa and Epworth owe a combined $3,4 million. The bulk of the debt amounting to $92 million was for water. The city collects an average of $11 million instead of a potential $24 million every month.