24 April 2011

Zimbabwe: Masunda Attacks Chombo Over Slashing of Tariffs

HARARE mayor Muchadeyi Masunda has scoffed at government's recent move to reduce tariffs for various services offered by city councils saying it amounts to unwarranted interference.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo last week said he had agreed with Water Resources Development and Management minister Sipepa Nkomo to slash water charges.

Harare's fixed water charge for high-density areas was reduced from US$7 to US$5 and that for low-density suburbs from $13 to US$11.

Consumers will now pay US20 cents per cubic metre down from US30 cents for the first 20 cubic metres consumed and US60 cents per cubic metre from 21 to 50 cubic metres.

Chombo said ratepayers who did not receive water for 30 consecutive days should refuse to pay for that particular month.

Also slashed were health fees, with maternity charges reduced from US$50 to US$25.

Children will now pay US$2 and US$5 at clinics and hospitals respectively while adults will pay US$5 and US$10.

Masunda said slashing charges will negatively affect council's capacity and government should be exploring ways of settling its US$50 million debt to council and funding city councils to improve service delivery.

"Slashing maternal fees will only reduce the capacity of the clinics and thus put the life of the pregnant mother and unborn child at risk," he said. "We are doing all we can to reduce maternal mortality.

"We set these figures after a lot of consultations, taking into cognisance all critical factors, including the fact that local authorities are not getting any funding from central government.

"I have had to approach personal friends I learnt with so they help fund our health institutions."

Masunda said while the city's financial inflows were trickling, outflows were high. He said council spends more than US$2 million on water chemicals every month but was owed US$150 million by various stakeholders including government.

The slashing of charges came at the back of complaints by residents' organisations who feel councils' service delivery does not tally with the money they are being asked to pay.

In Harare, organisations such as the Harare Residents' Trust want residents to pay only US$2 in fixed water charges and maternity fees against council's proposed US$30.

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