By Tonderai Saharo
AUTHORITIES in Masvingo city Friday enlisted protection from some anti-riot police to guard council premises during a #ratesmustfall all stockholders meeting.
This comes as the impasse over rates continues between the local authority and its disgruntled residents.
The local authority is under pressure from residents who are accusing the city fathers of hiking rates by over 600 percent, despite spirited objections from rate payers.
As news of the Friday stakeholders meeting at Town house filtered in, residents used social media and mobilised themselves to turn out in their numbers.
Fearing for the worst, council unleashed some anti-riot police to turn away residents intending to express their displeasure over the unilateral hike.
Masvingo city council public relations officer Ashley Jinjika defended the move saying the meeting was strictly by invitation for residents’ representatives and the business community.
She said the decision to turn away people was also in keeping with government restrictions to limit gatherings to just 50 people.
However, the meeting did not yield any desired results on the part of residents as the city fathers remained unmoved on demands to review the rates downwards.
The city fathers said the issue was now beyond their control as the budget was already approved by the ministry of local government.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance accused the authority of bad governance.
“Nothing came out of the meeting. Council was adamant that they are not going to adjust the budget because it has already been approved by the Minister of Local Government while residents’ representatives were of the view that residents cannot afford the set tariffs.
“So, there was a deadlock and it was then agreed that council had to do the budget feedback in the wards to explain this position.
“As Murra, we are not happy with the council position. It’s now becoming a tradition for council that they don’t accept any input from stakeholders.
“Their decision is final. This bad governance,” Murra coordinator Anoziva Muguti said.
Service delivery in the country’s first urban settlement is in a deplorable state, water shortages, poor roads and sewer bursts now characterise the ancient city.
The $2 600 monthly charges is beyond the reach of many ratepayers who have endured months of no meaningful economic activity as a result of the global pandemic, Covid-19.