PEOPLE’S Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume says Zanu PF must spare the nation its “baboon” stunts which it has often visited upon locals through populist but disastrous pre-election decisions on local government affairs.
Mafume said this on Monday as residents’ groups warned local government affairs stood to suffer again amid continued meddling by Zanu PF ministers.
Nyanga Rural District Council CEO Zephania Jaravaza told parliament’s Public Accounts committee this past week the tiny local authority was still feeling the effects of the July 2013 government directive to 92 local authorities in the country to cancel all debts owed by rate payers.
Jaravaza said the debt amnesty decreed by then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo has affected the rural council’s capacity to service nearly $40,000 in a combined debt owed to the National Social Security Authority and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
The decision, which came on the eve of the July 31, 2013 election, although popular among debt ridden residents, has decreased local authorities’ capacity to deliver services smoothly to rate payers.
The debt reprieve was in respect of outstanding rates which covered the period February 2009 to the end of June 2013.
Fears abound that by parcelling out stands, Kasukuwere could well be on a fresh path on his party’s behalf to lure prospective voters using stands and rates.
As the country nears the 2018 elections, Zanu PF has again turned to the local government minister again to perform the hangman role on opposition mayors and councillors while dangling a carrot in front of desperate rate payers.
“We are seeing it now with stands to civil servants and soon the whole country would need stands. They will make urban areas rural again in order to get votes,” Mafume said.
Mafume said while his party sympathised with poor Zimbabweans who have accumulated debts as a result of economic factors, he disapproved of Zanu PF’s knee-jerk decisions to unilaterally impose debt cancellation decisions and leaving local authorities in the lurch.
“They are into crude politics,” Mafume said, “They worry about votes and not about the damage to future generations.
“Like baboons, they always eat the crop and no care about planting it.”
Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) director Mfundo Mlilo also told NewZimbabwe.com the debt cancellation has had negative effects on local authorities’ balance sheets.
“Our position has been that the debt relief while welcome because some of the debts are illegal and happen in the context of poor service delivery are damaging our local authorities.
“We do not support any debt reliefs for 2018,” he said.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association secretary for education Thembelani Dube said while not condoning the impulse cancellation on council debts by central government, Kasukuwere was well within his powers as minister to release state land for residential purposes.
“The land belongs to the state. It’s a national resource,” he said.
“The local authorities have the mandate of land in urban areas. As long as the parceled land falls within their jurisdictions local authorities have to rationalise land allocated.”