By Staff Reporter
A POPULIST Zanu PF policy by then Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo in 2013 to extend a debt amnesty on ratepayers who owed billions of dollars to their respective councils countrywide, continues to haunt the Mutare City Council as most ratepayers have developed apathy in settling their current bills.
On the eve of the 2013 elections, Chombo ordered urban and rural and councils to write off all rates and bills owed by residents from February 2009 to June 2013.
Chombo said the debt forgiveness, amounting to about $2 billion, was going to enable residents to start on a new slate.
However, according to Mutare mayor Blessing Tandi, some seven years after the directive, most residents in the town have developed a culture of failing to settle their monthly bills resulting in a significant decline in revenue collection.
Hard-pressed residents hope the tariffs would at one point be scrapped again as the ruling Zanu PF eyes support ahead of the 2023 elections.
Chombo was removed as a minister in November 2017 in a military-backed coup that kicked out the now late President Robert Mugabe from office.
Speaking during the local council’s promotional draw, which saw two residents walking away with residential stands, Tandi said the competition had sought to reverse the legacy impact of the 2013 bill slashes, which negatively impacted on the council’s operations.
“A local authority is a cost-recovery driven entity hence if we don’t have any income from our residents, then we won’t be able to offer the services that we want,” he said.
“The promotion achieved the desired results particularly being the resuscitation of a paying culture among our residents and stakeholders in honouring their council bills.
“The bill slashes that happened in 2013 left the local authority crippled in terms of resources. We couldn’t offer the services that we should ordinarily offer to our ratepayers.”
The promotion dubbed; ‘Maintain up to date Account Promotion’ which ran from April this year, with monthly draws, has greatly improved revenue collection among rate payers, Tandi said.
Council finance director, Blessing Chafesuka also concurred with Tandi.
“Our collections were averaging between 30-35% of billing and that was not sustainable in terms of providing services. It (competition) improved our revenue collection significantly. For 2019 our collection improved from the average of 30-35% and went up to around 60% on average, of the monthly billing,” he said.