MUTARE– Resident associations have said council’s special bill cancellation is a misdirected populist move which will plunge the struggling municipality into further distress.
Director of Combined Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (CMRRT) said this move was a demonstration of desperation in management which will fuel civic disobedience.
“It’s a simple case of firefighting. Look in 2013 rates were scrapped off and now we are getting to a phase of compromise.
“What we are simply doing is fomenting a culture of civil disobedience, a culture for our people not to pay, because people will look at this and say since we are closer to elections in 2018 politicians will come and scrap off our debt.
“We have asked for council’s debt reclamation strategy and they have not been clear about their strategy,” he said.
Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA) Programs Coordinator David Mutambirwa said City Council 50% bill cut was benefiting debtors at the expense of loyal ratepayers.
He said council, guided by politicians seeking mileage, was deliberately avoiding government departments which owe the ailing municipality millions in unpaid bills.
“This bill cancellation move is mind boggling. Government departments owe council a lot of money and they are not paying anything.
“It’s a political move instituted by carefree politicians who are seeking political mileage,” he added, “It demoralizes people who have been paying their dues religiously.”
Residents’ debt has accumulated to above $12 million, despite government’s move to scrap off all arrears in the run up to the 2013 harmonized elections, a move which left the local municipality in a state of paralysis.
In a notice signed by Town Clerk Obert Muzawazi residents were urged to embrace the special offer, “City of Mutare is inviting all the residents and institutions such as churches with outstanding debts calculated as at cutoff date of 31st March 2015 to pay half (50%) of the whole understanding from 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2015 in order for the 50% of the outstanding amount be written off.
“Further, the customers who were paying their accounts timeously and whose accounts were up to date as at 31st March 2015 will be awarded a credit of 50% of their monthly bills over a period of two months staggered per area/suburb from 1st April 2015 onwards.
“The cutoff date for awarding the above is 1st April 2015 to 31st May 2015.
“However failure to take up the said offer by the above stated dates will result in the normal process of debt recovery including legal action being instituted in order to recover all outstanding dues.
“This is virtually a special offer to be embraced by all those concerned.” Read part of the statement.
Simon Mangani a resident in Dangamvura said all council financial struggles were because of underhand financial dealings at Civic Centre. He called on management to respect residents by properly budgeting the little revenue inflows.
“The whole problem is not because people are not paying their bills it’s because the little that is paid is not properly channeled.
Council is not transparent that’s the first major problem.
“The municipality is collecting money every day in the city yet they are not transparent. They should put in systems which ensure better priorities and accountability in council,” he said.