25 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Harare Must Create a Win-Win Scenario


The decision by the Harare City Council to return property seized from residents who defaulted on paying rates shows officials are now listening to people's concerns.

Council three weeks ago instituted unprecedented property seizures that mainly targeted the poorest of the poor in a bid to recover debts.

The property seizures in Rugare, Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa, Mabvuku and Tafara caused much alarm and despondency in the suburbs where residents were now living in fear of the Messenger of Court.

As reported in this publication last week, a family in Rugare was left counting only empty plastic bottles as their property after their sofas, a room divider, a kitchen table, two fans, a carpet and a heater were all attached.

The family and many other affected people with no means of income, could not hire lawyers to stop the attachment of their property.

These property seizures showed insensitivity on the part of city fathers who failed to show compassion and an appreciation of the economic difficulties pensioners and other unemployed people face.

Some of these people can hardly secure three square meals a day, and have no capacity to raise money to pay council which provides erratic services.

It is the predicament of these people that made the council's action revolting.

Instead of punishing residents, council is advised to strategise on first improving service delivery to a level that will make residents see value in paying for it.

So far there is little incentive for residents to pay for astronomical water and refuse bills when their taps are always dry and bins are not collected.

A win-win scenario in which council provides a service that is satisfactory, with Harare residents paying for it, is what is needed.

In the event that residents fail to meet their obligations, council should give them ample time to raise the money, instead of unleashing the Messenger of Court on their homes.

Such an arrangement would go a long way in addressing the challenges faced by the two parties without creating unnecessary animosity between them.

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