11 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Harare City Council Attaches Residents' Properties

Harare City Council last week attached household goods from several residents for failing to pay rates.

Some of the residents now fear they could lose their houses. A messenger of court last week swooped on the defaulting residents in Rugare and Kuwadzana high-density suburbs, attaching everything from fans to sofas.

"They sent me a letter of final demand last week and my son went to talk to officials at the city treasury department, where he was given up to today to pay US$100," Eveline Njazi of Rugare said on Friday.

"But the messenger of court came yesterday (Thursday) and attached our household goods."

She added: "My son only got the money later in the day and when he went to the council offices today he was told that the property can only be released after payment of US$350."

Njazi owes the city council US$1 050,80 in unpaid rates. The messenger of court attached a four-piece sofa set, a room divider, a kitchen table, two fans, a carpet and a heater.

The 50-year-old widow said she now lived in fear of eviction from the house, together with her two unemployed sons.

Her only source of income is the National Railways of Zimbabwe's Widows' Pension Fund, which pays her an average of US$13 per month after bank charges.

"We are just living in this house, but we are no different from those who have been evicted," Njazi said.

"There is no one who wants to access somebody's services for free, but we do not have the money".

She said her family had no way of raising the money and was waiting to hear from the council, if what it attached tallied with the debt.

Several other residents in the suburb also received letters of final demand last week and were running around sourcing money so that they could pay.

"I owe them US$500 and they sent me a letter last week," a man who identified himself only as Gidza said.

"We have tenants renting some rooms in the house, but what we realise from the rent is not adequate for our day-to-day needs, so how can we prioritise paying for water which we sometimes go for months without. It's unfair."

Move unwise: Mazorodze

Mazorodze said it was disheartening that the attached properties were being sold for a song. One woman's deep freezer, which was attached over a US$1 000 plus debt, was allegedly sold for US$64, he said.

Efforts to get a comment from Council spokesperson, Leslie Gwindi, were futile. But Rugare councillor, Peter Moyo, raised the issue at a full council meeting on Thursday, expressing shock that people in his ward were having their property attached without a council resolution.

Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, whose name appears in some of the summons seen by The Standard, told the meeting that he had not authorised the attachments.

The attachment of residents' properties come at a time when the local authority is failing to provide basic social services such as clean water, collection of refuse, maintenance of roads or traffic lights.

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