19 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Harare Churches Owe City Council RTGs$10 Million in Rates and Rent Arrears

Churches in and around the City of Harare owe the municipality RTGS$10 million in unpaid rates and rentals, it has been learnt.

This was revealed at a meeting between Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba and members of the clergy from different denominations in the capital held Monday.

"The other issue is to do with debts, the churches collectively owe Council, about RTGS$10 million in rates, rentals and other services they have failed to pay," Rev Christopher Choto president of Zimbabwe Christian Ministers Association told the gathering.

"And there has been talk that most churches may miss any chances of buying any available stands until they clear their arrears."

The churches pleaded with Gomba for a 60% debt cancellation to help them clear their debts arguing they are non-profit making organisations.

"But your Worship (Mayor) we have sinned. I am appealing to you and the councilors here to give us a good concession. Given that it's the first time, and let us pay only 40% of our debts then we start from there moving forward," said Bishop Tendayi Katsande of Christian Marching Church (CMC).

However other church leaders shot the suggestion down indicating most of their colleagues were "living large, driving posh cars, wearing expensive suits and flying in and outside the country for holidays yet failing to pay their rates."

Rev Joseph Munemo of Zimbabwe Pastors Fellowship (ZPF) said the appeal was unnecessary given the way most church leaders lived.

"Forgive me my pastors and clergymen, about the rates, yes some rates are high, yes we are not able to pay, but let me be the devil's advocate.

"There is a problem also on our part. Indeed this ministry is not paying, but you see the head of that ministry frequently flying out for holidays, driving nice cars and living in mansions," said Rev Munemo.

"But the church they are leading is failing to pay the rates, how much is the plane to Dubai (United Arab Emirates), for holiday."

Rev Munemo added that the church leaders needed to get their priorities right.

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