12 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Harare Council Confiscates Residents' Properties

Several poor families from Harare's high-density suburbs, who had defaulted on paying their rates to the City Council, suffered the tragedy of losing their property last week after it was attached to settle the debt.

The unfortunate residents were from Rugare and Kuwadzana, where residents say service delivery is extremely poor. Many have had no water for months, rubbish goes uncollected, there is open sewage in the streets, no lighting and plenty of potholes.

A messenger of the court took all sorts of household goods from the defaulting residents, including televisions, refrigerators, sofas and ans. Other residents, who also received the warning letters, are living in fear and struggling to find money to pay the council.

According to The Standard newspaper, one of the families that received a final demand letter last week managed to get an extension until Friday to pay $100. But the messenger of court came on Thursday and attached their household goods.

Another victim was a 50-year-old widow who has two unemployed sons. Their only income is the Widows' Pension from her late husband's policy at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, which pays her about $13 per month, after bank charges.

The Standard report said some of the summons had been signed by Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, but he denied having authorised the attachments. The local councillors also expressed no knowledge of any council resolution to attach residents' property.

Simbarashe Moyo from the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) told SW Radio Africa that they were shocked city officials would make such "an anti-people move", knowing the circumstances of most families living in the high-density areas.

Moyo said the fact that the Mayor and local officials knew nothing of this decision to attach residents property shows that there is a conspiracy at City Hall to tarnish the image of elected officials.

"There are unelected bureaucrats at the Town Hall who know that the council is run by a majority of elected officials in the MDC and want to tarnish their image and ruin their chances in the elections that we will have in about six months," Moyo explained.

He said these unelected officials are believed to be making decisions outside the council, and the Mayor needs to put a stop to this.

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