City of Harare councillors have accused management of flouting council procedures by unilaterally attaching residents' properties over non-payment of rates. The councillors accuse management of engaging the Messenger of Court without their approval. The city fathers clashed with management during a recent full council meeting demanding an explanation on the property attachment.
They argued that policymakers should be aware of what was happening in council.
Residents in Mabvuku, Mbare and Rugare had their properties attached last week over unpaid water bills.
Council had sent letters of final demand to the residents threatening to attach property or take them to court. The council's treasury department reportedly directed the Messenger of Court to attach property belonging to those with outstanding debts.
Ward 14 councillor Mr Peter Moyo said senior managers were working with discredited councillors to punish residents. He said the move was targeted at ensuring that the councillors lose the forthcoming elections.
"Your worship, can you tell us who instructed the Deputy Sheriff to attach the property of the poor in Harare?
"Vanhu vava kurara pasi nekuti vakatorerwa property inosanganisira mibhedha nemagumbeze avo apa tiri kuenda kuma elections (Residents are sleeping on the floor after property was attached by the Deputy Sheriff including their beds and blankets).
"Ndiani akapa vanhu authority iyoyo yekutora zvinhu zvevarombo. Hatidi politics dzakapusa (Who gave these people that authority to attach poor people's properties. We do not want cheap politics)," Clr Moyo charged.
Government, residents and businesses owe council US$250 million. Ward 19 Clr Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi said there was no council resolution to attach people's property.
"That is why people say there is discord in council between policy makers and implementers. How can you (management) go behind our back and attach people's property?
"You are targeting the poor at the expense of big debtors like Government. What measures are you putting in place to ensure that money owed by Government is recovered?"
Special Interest Councillor Angus Martens said council was over-billing residents. He urged council to collect money owed through payment plans than punishing residents.
"Why are you as council management not considering the plight of residents? People like pensioners do not have money but we are stifling them through over-billing. They cannot afford the rates that we are charging as council and there are no strategies to address their challenges," he said.
Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said the city's treasury department would look into the issue and come up with a win-win solution.
"As management, together with the Town Clerk, we will discuss the issue with the treasury department to see what transpired.
"I assure you that the concerns you have raised will be attended to as we find a way beneficial to both council and residents," he said.
Mayor Masunda said council should ensure that it holds frequent meetings with residents.
"We are also going to check if it is possible to have the bills that residents are complaining about waived. We should be innovative and engage the residents always," he said.
Harare Residents Trust last week handed over a petition to the HCC demanding the local authority to cancel all debts accrued by residents before 2010, arguing the bills were based on estimates.
The residents said the services they received from council before 2010 were not commensurate with the money charged.
They gave council up to November 30 to make a decision after which service delivery protests would be staged in the capital.