Masvingo City Council broke, engages debt collectors

Garikai Mafirakureva – MASVINGO – Masvingo City Council which cancelled millions of dollars worth of debts at the behest of Zanu PF 2013 election pledges is broke and is with effect from next week handing over residents owing it money to debt collectors.

Masvingo Town Clerk, Adolf Gusha confirmed the position in a Press statement this week and said the handing over of residents to debt collectors will start on November 21, 2014.

The Mirror established that Council has not paid workers’ salaries since September 2014 due to the financial difficulties. The council is not paying tax to ZIMRA; has four months backlog on pensions and service delivery is grinding to a halt.

“The debts are still high despite bills having been written off by Government up to June 2013. As council, we have now engaged debt collectors and we are also going to hand over the army, Police, Zimbabwe Correctional Services and Cold Storage,” said Gusha.

Life has come full circle for residents who only got debt relief 12 months ago when Government ordered the Council to cancel $6,5 million owed to it. The same residents will now have their properties attached and auctioned. Zanu PF promised to cancell millions of dollars in debt owed to local authorities throughout the country and this pledge was made ahead of the July 2013 elections.

Gusha said Council is currently owed a total of $21 million by both residents and State and private enterprise.

Debt collectors will therefore from the 21st of November be writing letters of demand to residents, followed by summons for the residents to appear in court and where court orders are granted, the debt collectors will be attaching properties to recover Council debt. Affected residents and companies will pay an extra 10 percent commission to the debt collector.

Ironically most of the $21 million debt is owed to the Council by Government departments and parastatals including the Zimbabwe National Army, which owes council $5 million, the Zimbabwe Prison Service $1.5 million, the Zimbabwe Republic Police whose debt is $1.4 million and the ailing Cold Storage Company which owes council $1 million.

Gusha said every debtor including the State departments were going to be taken to the debt collectors.

The debts have been accruing since June last year – just before the July 31 polls – when Government. issued a directive

The populist directive, which was viewed as an election gimmick by a wing of the then ruling inclusive government, further crippled service delivery in the country’s struggling local authorities.

“We are failing to improve on service delivery within the city. We want to improve the city’s sewerage and water works but we cannot because people are not paying their debts,” said Gusha

Meanwhile, the city’s department of health, housing and environmental services has reported an outbreak of waterborne diseases, with cases of diarrhoea and cases of dysentery being reported in recent months.

Fears abound the diseases may spread as city authorities embark on the controversial water disconnections to recover debts.

Masvingo Urban Residents Ratepayers’ Association (MURRA) programmes officer Anoziva Muguti descibed the city council’s actions as inhumane as they did not approach the residents to arrange a payment plan.

“I think the city council’s actions are inhumane because they should have engaged the residents and map a way forward. We are going to take appropriate action and meet them head on,” said Muguti.

Source: Mirror Reporter – Masvingo

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