Gogo Elizabeth Chikoro is a 65 year old widow.
Like many other impoverished Zimbabweans who are reeling from the effects of a failed economy, Gogo Chikoro is struggling to make ends meet.
Her plight has been worsened by the fact that she risks having her property attached by debt collectors owing to her failure to settle a debt of more than $500.00 which she owes to the Harare City Council.
The Harare City Council has unleashed Wellcash (Pvt) (Ltd) debt collectors against residents some of whom owe the council thousands of dollars.
What has instilled fear in most residents, including the elderly is the fact that the debt collectors are threatening the creditors with imprisonment or attachment of property in the event that they fail to service their debts. Some have also been threatened with eviction from their homes.
Due to panic, some of the residents have gone to the extent of disposing their property to get cash to settle their debts. But they are complaining that they have become victims of daylight robbery.
Wellcash debt collectors is charging them a 10 percent interest on the amount that they owe council and what this means is that the amount being deducted from their debts is less than what they would have paid.
In light of the challenge, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and the Community Water Alliance (CWA) held a community meeting meant to educate residents on the illegality of the move by the Harare City Council to unleash debt collectors against defaulters.
In Zimbabwe, there is no act of Parliament that empowers debt collectors to issue summons or threaten court action on behalf of creditors.
Said Gogo Chikoro, “I received a letter from the debt collectors and because I was afraid that I would lose my house or property, I had to run around to look for cash but I managed to get only $50.00. But the debt collectors told me that the amount was little and they wouldn’t listen to my pleas.
“There has to be some kind of intervention because it is not like we are defiant but we actually do not have the means to pay. Personally, I do not have a source of income and these threats by the debt collectors have actually unsettled me as I am not sure what the future holds for me.”
Her plight is similar to that of Jackson Katonha (66).
“When the debt collectors served me with the warning letter, I went and paid $20.00 and told them that due to my situation, that was all I could afford. They openly told me that they would proceed with court action or attachment of my property as the money I had paid was not enough. Right now I am living in fear that I will lose what I have worked hard for in my life,” said Katonha.
Gogo Brandina Zuwa (71) said, “We really need assistance because we are now living in fear. In my case, I am struggling to look after my grandchildren and my situation has been made worse by the threats that I am receiving from the debt collectors.”
Speaking during the Glen Norah meeting, CHRA Community Officer, Reuben Akili blasted the Harare City Council for its move to engage debt collectors against defaulters.
“As Combined Harare Residents Association, we are saying that what is happening is illegal. We stand ready to assist all those affected and we urge residents to pay money to council directly not to Wellcash debt collectors,” said Akili.
The Harare City Council is on record justifying its move to engage Wellcash debt collectors on the grounds that the move has increased revenue collection as residents were now complying with demands for payment.