HARARE city council, which recently wrote off accumulated debts on rates and charges for all domestic consumers, has threatened to take legal action against those who do not pay their bills from July, when they started with a clean slate. The move comes after the council sent out revised bills this month to residents who had been struggling to service their debts that had been mounting since 2009, when the new currency regime came into force.
The Government had directed all municipalities and councils to write off all debts that accumulated between February 2009 and end of June this year, which Harare was among the first to do.
The writing off of the debts excluded corporates, industrial, commercial and any other business. However, corporates are also benefiting from the 30 percent discount that will run up to December this year should they clear their debts by them.
Council now urges consumers to start on a new page to ensure they religiously pay up their bills to avoid litigation.
In a statement, Harare Acting Town Clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube said consumers should now pay their bills or risk the legal consequences. They were starting afresh with the July charges and should pay rather than let them accumulate again.
"Failure to settle bills in full by the due date will leave the council with no option but to take further action. Pay your bills by due dates to avoid any inconveniences and attendant legal action," read the statement.
Mrs Ncube said the August bills (new bills) were out and that consumers should not relax. "Council would like to advise that the August 2013 bill is now out and has been distributed.
"All ratepayers, corporate and individuals alike are hereby urged to timeously settle their municipal bills. For individuals, the July and August 2013 bills should be settled in full by the due date without failure. Corporates are urged to take advantage of the 30 percent discount offer which ends on December 31 2013. Those corporate in arrears should settle their current bills in full and pay a portion of arrears in line with the agreed payment plans," read the statement.
Local Government Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo directed that all councils write off the accumulated debts.
Minister Chombo said the debts had become a burden on citizens who were being weighed down by economic hardships brought about by Western-imposed sanctions.
Apart from the sanctions, Minister Chombo said it had become clear that the debts were non-collectable and that the councils were spending more in an attempt to recover them.
Residents' associations also raised complaints over the arrears caused by unjustified increases in rates and bills by councils, especially in urban areas.
The MDC-T which dominated most urban councils and was accused of levying astronomical amounts and its civil society allies opposed the Government move to cancel debts claiming it was a campaign political gimmick.
Several local authorities have since implemented the directive with Harare and Chitungwiza among the major local authorities that have heeded the directive.
Harare has written off US$330 million while Chitungwiza scrapped over US$40 million.