Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Government has turned down a request by cash-strapped urban local authorities to use the Zesa pre-paid platform to collect revenues.
Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) president and Harare mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni had requested for a new system where water and electricity bills are jointly paid at Zesa offices.
The envisaged system was expected to help recover debts from defaulting residents, who owe local authorities more than $1 billion.
At a meeting held at Town House on Tuesday last week, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo told the UCAZ president that it was not possible for the city to use that option.
Cllr Manyenyeni confirmed the development last week.
“The new minister feels it is ceding authority,” he said. “For now, we might get to do a trial in one ward (Harare) if the Zesa board agrees.”
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing permanent secretary Mr George Magosvongwe said Minister Moyo was best placed to comment on the reason why Government declined the proposal.
“It is a direct delivery from him (Minister Moyo),” he said. “It is better for him to comment on the issue. We are, however, looking at various options to improve revenue collection, which balances the interests of local authorities and councils.”
Minister Moyo could not be reached for comment.
Last year, Cllr Manyenyeni said the proposal had the potential to improve municipal finances and facilitate better service delivery.
“Right now the message to residents is pay up,” he said then.
“We expect those who are making noises against pre-paid water meters (resident associations) 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.”
Harare is owed more than $700 million, with the city now employing various strategies, including evictions, to those who are leasing council properties.
Council has also resorted to issuing summons to defaulters in an attempt to recover outstanding debts.
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, while other local authorities are also owed millions by ratepayers.