By Tonderai Saharo
MASVINGO City Council is headed for a show down with residents after it resolved to engage the services of a debt collector in a bid to recover over $50 million it is owed by rate payers.
The residents are resisting the move; with a local pressure group Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) calling for the city fathers to instead unleash the debtor collectors on government institutions first before turning to ordinary residents.
Government departments owe the local authority, a huge chunk of the debt in excess of $27 million which has been accumulating over the years.
Residents on the other hand owe the local authority $21 million.
“We have noted with concern that the local authority has unleashed its debt collectors on residents, who have been religiously contributing something towards service delivery, yet there are institutions that are getting the same services without paying.
“Council should have first unleashed the debt collectors on institutions such as the Zimbabwe National Army, police and other government departments getting services at the expense of residents without paying a cent,” said MURRA spokesperson Godfrey Mutimba.
“Council is doing this when residents are grappling with incessant water cuts due to a serious breakdown at the Bushmead Water Works and if council expends no effort in following up on outstanding bills we would not be in the mess we are in today.”
Masvingo is facing acute water shortages, the worst in a decade, due to breakdowns at the city’s main water works which has resulted in most parts of the city going for weeks without water
According to the recent full council minutes the finance and general purpose committee highlighted that government departments are yet to make payments save for educational institutions and the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services which were paying.
“Most government departments were being allocated funds to pay off utility bills from Treasury.
“However they were not using their allocations to pay council bills hence the office of Minister of State for Provincial Affairs has been approached to assist in engaging the institutions to settle their debts,” part of the committee’s minutes said.