2 November 2017

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Accused of Politicking On Debt Firm

MDC-T councillors have been accused of politicking at the expense of service delivery after their renewed effort to cancel Wellcash Debt Collectors' contract barely a month after re-engaging them. The councillors, who are controlled from Harvest House, are torn between the need to boost the city's revenue and toeing the party line. MDC-T ordered the councillors to cancel the contract in fear of disappointing Harare residents ahead of the harmonised elections next year. The debt collectors have been contributing positively to the city's coffers, although the residents are not happy with their militant approach.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday, Ward 45 councillor Girisoti Mandere moved a motion to cancel Wellcash's contract, but acting chamber secretary Mr Charles Kandemiri said since the same council made the resolution of rehiring Wellcash, the matter should be put to vote, with a two-thirds majority required to cancel the resolution.

Ward 14 councillor Alderman Samuel Chinyowa accused the MDC-T councillors of playing cheap politics. "If other Government ministries are engaging Wellcash to recover their debts, who are you to deny Wellcash?" he said. "We should prioritise service delivery. How are we going to pay our workers if we cancel Wellcash's contract?

"Most of you are not going to come back to Town House because you are politicking." Ward 3 councillor Innocent Maseko also believes that MDC-T councillors should prioritise service delivery.

Following the discussion, city mayor Cllr Bernard Manyenyeni suggested to councillors that it was perhaps wise to wait for Wellcash's contract to expire on November 15 before charting the way forward. Cllr Mandere subsequently withdrew his motion and council agreed to let Wellcash run down its contract.

Harare City Council is owed more than $700 million by various stakeholders and there are fears arrears will continue piling up on false expectations that Government will write off debts before the 2018 elections. The city's finance director, Mr Tendai Kwenda, is on record saying some politicians were making the situation increasingly difficult by encouraging residents to boycott paying rates.

"The politicians are not helping the situation," he said. "In as much as the Minister (Cde Saviour Kasukuwere) has been on record as saying there is not going to be a debt write-off, those that owe councils and municipalities should go and negotiate payment plans. That is not happening with other politicians." Harare City Council believes that had its contract with Wellcash not been prematurely cancelled, it would have been able to forestall the rising debt.

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