Council presents US$347 million 2023 budget for Harare; Mbare violence blamed as revenues slump 55% 

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Council desperate for Mbare violence solution as revenue collection dips to record lows

By Leopold Munhende, Chief Correspondent 

HARARE city council has presented a ZW$213.147 billion (US$347m at the official rate) budget for 2023 centred on the capital’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme (WASH) as well as revamping of its social services.

The budget, presented Wednesday by finance chairperson and Ward 14 councillor Costa Mande, noted council’s failure to collect revenue which saw it recording a record low of ZW$31.89 billion against a target of ZW$70.216 billion.

This signals a 55% loss for the country’s biggest municipality, with Mande pointing out central government interference as one of the reasons for the decline.

To avert a similar situation next year, council proposed intervention in politically tense Mbare where Zanu PF and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters have been involved in running battles for space which they rent out to vendors without a cent being paid to council.

Mande also proposed amendment of by-laws to empower council in recovering debts that have amounted to ZW$8.6 billion.

“The general informalisation of the country has resulted in a growing underground economy. Informality has a huge bearing on the operations of the City. Council, with the aid of development partners, is making efforts to register these economic activities so that they contribute to the fiscus,” said Mande.

“This sector has over the years been characterised by political groupings battling for illegal control and dominance over space and infrastructure. The City has witnessed violent incidents in Mbare, there is need for political will across the divide for coordinated regulation and enforcement of the informal sector.

“The City of Harare needs to review and update by-laws and enforce to regulate activities and get the legal basis to collect revenue and fund service delivery. To this end, departments are currently reviewing their mandates to identify by-laws for reviewing and crafting new ones. This will ease the pressure on our mainstream tariffs that may burden our ratepayers.”

Zanu PF and CCC land barons had, until recent clashes that have all but stopped economic activities in Mbare, been charging for space illegally with both council and Zimbabwe Republic police (ZRP) officers failing to put an end to the impropriety.

Added Mande: “The 2022 budget that is still under implementation, has faced several factors, positive and negative resulting in collection efficiency of 45% as at 30 September 2022. The 2022 tariffs are indexed to the USD, and hence provided the Council room to preserve value at the billing point but collections have not been commensurate to the billings. The obtaining state of our finances is undesirable, having failed to collect more than 50% of potential revenues.

“The failure to collect is linked to non-availability of a fully functional integrated enterprise resource platform, inadequate service delivery and low customer satisfaction index of 32% according to a survey conducted in 2021.”

Council, which has over the years failed to solve the water crisis, set aside ZW$95.559 billion (US$155,380,487.80) for its WASH programmes and ZW$40.807 (US$66,352,845.53) billion for social services.

ZW$26 .441 billion has been set aside to service the city’s dellapidated road network, ZW$29.039 for its governance and administration programme while ZW$19.616 will be for public safety and security.

“Water Sanitation and Hygiene is at the heart of service delivery. The strategic objective of the programme is to improve the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The key outcome is improved water, sanitation and hygiene,” he said.

“The state of our roads is currently not aligned to The City’s Vision 2025 as the state is very poor. The performance of this program is attributed to late disbursement of funds and failure by the City to provide funding for this highly capital-intensive programme.”

The ZW$26 .441 billion set aside for road rehabilitation will be mainly funded from council coffers (ZW$22.168 billion), Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA) and loans.

Mande proposed that all rates be pegged in US dollars to maintain value against a waning Zimbabwe dollar, with residents free to use a currency of their choice, however.

“The successful implementation of the programmes spelt out above requires that the various stakeholders including ratepayers of the City of Harare pay their bills when they fall due.

“Everyone must pay for services, there is a cost to doing business or living in an urban set up. This is the only way your Council will be able to provide services to their expectations.

“The budget that is before you is reasonable. Residents were consulted and we listened,” said Mande.