Gweru City Council is locked in a legal battle with the Zesa Holdings after it demanded that the parastatal pays it over $5 million in rates in lieu of land lying under its powerlines.
Zesa does not pay for land that lies under power lines in all local authorities. In its argument, Gweru City Council, which itself owes Zesa over $24 million in unpaid electricity bills, said there were large tracts of its land which could not be put to safe use because it lay under Zesa power lines.
High voltage power cables from Kariba Hydro Power Station pass through Gweru, rendering that space unusable. A mid-year performance report released this week reveals Gweru City Council had billed Zesa $5 138 502 for the first half of the year.
"The city council included way leaves in its last budget. Way leaves pertain to rates in lieu of land lying below Zesa electricity lines, whose land cannot be put into any other use. Our billing in respect of such land was budgeted for $4 981 200 for the period under review. Our actual billing for the same came up to $5 138 502," reads the report in possession of The Herald.
The report, however, highlighted that Zesa was disputing the billing and has approached the courts to resolve the matter.
"It must, however, be noted that Zesa is disputing the legal framework empowering the local authorities the right to charge them way leaves and the matter is before the courts," reads the report.
Meanwhile, Gweru City Council has started consultations with the aim of introducing prepaid water metres as a way of containing the ballooning debt owed by residents and industry in unpaid rates.
Speaking during a meet-the-residents meeting at town hall yesterday, the Town Clerk, Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza said the introduction of prepaid water metres would help them recover $55 million from residents and industry.
"The prepaid metres will help us levy ratepayers from the money they would have paid for the water. "This will help us recover the $55 million the council is owed by debtors," she said. Most residents are against the installation of prepaid water metres in Gweru.