The City of Harare has come under fire from residents for its decision to engage the services of a debt collector to recover ZWL$ 8 billion owed by rate payers who now argue that the authority has not been meeting its end of the bargain -services delivery.
The authority last week announced on social media that it was taking the drastic measure to recover money from "difficult" clients as this was affecting its capacity to deliver services to the city.
"Council is engaging debt collectors for difficult clients. This will enhance revenue collection and ensure all service consumers contribute towards service delivery. Council is owed more than $8 billion," said the council.
263Chat spoke to some Harare residents who expressed dissatisfaction over the services rendered by the local authority which have prompted their decision to default rates payments.
"I cannot remember the last time I saw a Harare City garbage collection vehicle here. It's been ages yet we have been unjustifiably paying bills. What is the logic behind taking residents to a debt collector for services never rendered?" Garikai Kadzutu, a resident of Waterfalls suburb told 263Chat.
Some residents bemoaned the authority's chaotic billing system which is based on estimates.
"I have been requesting my bills for the months of April and May 2021 but there haven't been any results. I have even sent emails and there is no response. How do we pay the bills which we are not aware of," said another resident who asked for anonymity.
The development has been widely criticized for being inconsiderate of the residents' concerns as well as being ill-timed given that most residents have lost their sources of livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, critics says has affected residents capacity to settle their debts.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) opposed the idea of engaging a debt collectors insisting that candid engagements between council and residents may be the solution.
"In the administrative Justice Act which is our local law, citizens have the right to access administrative justice and that means if we are talking about bill payments, citizens must be paying what they are receiving. So the city of Harare is to take a confrontational approach yet citizens have genuine concerns around the city of Harare," said CHRA director, Loraine Mupasiri in an interview with 263Chat.
However, Council has reiterated that failure to deliver services has been necessitated by a huge debtors' book.
"It's equally insensitive to say we should not collect money that is due to the council as this is suppose top go towards service delivery. If service delivery suffers it means our clinics will not be functional and we are in a COVID-19 era," said Harare City spokesperson, Michael Chideme.
He said the debt collector will start duties after the legal instrument to support its activity has been put in place.