Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
AT least 350 residents had their vehicles and household property attached and auctioned after failing to pay bills and settle their debts as Harare City Council battles to recover nearly $500 million owed in unpaid bills.
To date, council has sued at least 10 000 defaulters.
The Harare Civil Court this year received in excess of 10 000 cases from the local authority.
Most of the claims were granted, prompting defaulters to pay off the debts.
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Statistics from the Messenger of Court’s office show that from January this year to date, around 350 defaulters had their vehicles and household property attached and auctioned.
Mostly affected are residents from high-density areas.
The Messenger of Court has attached 14 vehicles from defaulters, while hundreds lost an assortment of household goods this year.
The latest batch of seized household property went under the hammer at Ruby Auctions.
Yesterday, residents flocked the Messenger of Court’s office trying to negotiate payment plans.
Some were in possession of letters from council staying attachment of their property after they had paid part of the debts.
Economic analyst Mr Brains Muchemwa urged residents to pay their bills and move out of the culture of expecting free services.
“In the Zimbabwe dollar era, people could afford to ignore council bills for four to five months, waiting for the figure to be eroded by inflation.
“In this multi-currency system, the more you ignore the bills, the more they balloon. The debts are not going anywhere because there is no inflation.
“People simply have to pay their bills monthly to avoid huge bills that can result in loss of property,” said Mr Muchemwa.
Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme confirmed the attachment and auctioning of the property.
Harare Residents’ Trust spokesperson Mr Precious Shumba said rates charged by council were too high.
“The fact that residents are unable to pay in full what they should pay in terms of rates and rentals, is evidence that the rates and rentals charged by the local authority are beyond the reach of the majority of residents that they claim to serve,” he said.
Mr Shumba said council must also consider Section 183 of the Urban Councils’ Act which provides for the cancellation of debts when residents are failing to pay.
“HRT denounces the City of Harare in the strongest terms. We urge council to read again Section 183 of the Urban Councils Act which specifies that any rates, which have not been paid for a period of five years may be cancelled by the local authority,” he said.
In January this year, the Messenger of Court instructed Ruby Auctions to sell household goods for eight defaulters while February, 30 people lost their properties.
In March, 47 defaulters lost properties while the following month, 34 people had their properties auctioned.
Only one ratepayer lost property in May but the figure escalated to 115 in June.
July saw 48 residents losing property over council debts.
This month, 55 defaulters have so far lost household property and vehicles and more property attached from defaulters is yet to be sent to the auctioneers.