The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Councils Owed U.S.$500 Million

ZIMBABWE'S major local authorities are owed more than US$500 million in bills by residents, Government, industry and commerce, a situation that has seen various councils failing to provide basic services and paying salaries.

Government and residents have emerged as the biggest debtors.

Harare Mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni said residents owed more than US$104 million and the city had resorted to issuing summons to defaulters in an attempt to recover the funds.

As of May, Government departments owed Harare US$15,5 million, industry and commerce US$130 million, while the satellite towns of Chitungwiza, Norton, Ruwa and Epworth owed a combined US$3,4 million.

Since Government cancelled debts in July last year, some residents had not been paying their bills and as a result the combined debt for water only escalated to US$91,6 million.

The city bills go up to US$24 million every month, but council is only able to collect US$11 million.

"We urge residents to settle their bills because service delivery is affected by non-payment of bills," Mr Manyenyeni said.

Bulawayo Mayor Mr Martin Moyo said the biggest debtors to the city were Government and industry

"As of April, Government owed US$5,6 million, industry and commerce US$37,2 million and domestic debtors US$39,2 million.

"The effects are obviously constraints in service delivery, slow pace in infrastructure rehabilitation," he said. "Roads are still in bad shape, we have dark streets, health deliveries are affected as some of our clinics are not working at all. Also, we are unable to service our own debt to creditors."

Mutare Mayor Mr Tatenda Nhamarare said outstanding debts resulted in municipality's failure to complete projects.

"Our ratepayers owe us up to US$19,7 million as of 30 June 2014," he said. "Residents owe us US$13,1 million, industry US$4,4 million and commercial US$2,8 million.

"The accumulation of debt has resulted in us failing to pay our employees.

"This has resulted in the financial incapacity to complete water projects, failure to maintain traffic lights and the poor state of the roads.

We have engaged debt collectors to promote dialogue between council and the ratepayers."

The Mayor of Kwekwe, Mr Tatenda Madzoke, said Ziscosteel and Redcliff municipality were the biggest debtors, with US$13 million, while the residents owed US$8 million.

"We are sending messages to our debtors reminding them to pay the US$21 million so we can improve service delivery," he said.

Chitungwiza Town Clerk Mr George Makunde, said the council was failing to fulfil its mandate because of the debts.

"Ratepayers owe the council US$28 million, which makes Chitungwiza operate at a capacity of 30 percent in terms of service delivery, inclusive of the council workers," he said.

"We have engaged debt collectors and there is now improvement in terms of revenue collection."

Gweru City Council is owed US$24 million, the city's finance director, Mr Tarisai Edgar Mwedzi, revealed.

"Residents owe US$8,19 million, industry US$7,8 million, Government US$6,7 million and commercial US$1,05 million," he said.

"Service provision has been affected and we are not able to meet our daily operations."

Masvingo Mayor Mr Hubert Fidze said ratepayers and Government owed the city more than US$23 million.

"Obviously, this affects our service delivery and compromises the day-to-day running of the affairs in the form of water reticulation, roads, health, social services and salaries," he said.

Mr Fidze said he had introduced quarterly revenue budget performance reports ward by ward, narrating income and expenditure.

He said this was encouraging residents to pay and coming up with payment plans.

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