Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Cash-strapped urban local authorities, who are owed a combined more than $1 billion by ratepayers, have asked Government to allow them to use the Zesa prepaid platform for revenue collection.
Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe president and Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said the introduction of a new system, where water and electricity bills are to be paid at Zesa offices, will ensure that residents clear their debts.
“I have made submissions to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” he said. “They are discussing the possibility with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.”
Cllr Manyenyeni said if the proposal was approved by Government, it would change the complexion of municipal finances and revive all cities and towns in terms of revenue collection and service delivery.
“Right now, the message to residents is pay up,” he said. “I am four months ahead. We expect those who are making noise against pre-paid water meters to be louder about the payment of bills.
“If there was greater compliance we would not be wasting money in finding alternative solutions. We are looking for these solutions because of defaults in payment and ballooning debtor’s books. Residents should pay and get the required services.”
Most councils are failing to provide basic services as they are owed millions in unpaid bills by residents, Government, industry and commerce. Harare is owed more than $658 million, with the city now employing various strategies, including evictions on those who are leasing council properties, as well as issuing summons to defaulters in an attempt to recover the funds.
The city is in the process of evicting defaulting tenants over debts amounting to more than $10 million in Highfield and Glen Norah. Mutare City Council is now resorting to debt collectors to recover more than $41 million from ratepayers. Chitungwiza ratepayers owe the local authority close to $60 million in unpaid rates and bills as of June 21, 2017.
Masvingo is owed more than $42 million by ratepayers and Government, while Kwekwe is owed more than $30 million.
As of May this year, Gweru City Council was owed more than $52 million by ratepayers.