Masvingo, residents clash over 750 percent 2021 rate hike

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By Tonderai Saharo

MASVINGO City Council is headed for a showdown with residents after proposing a 750 percent hike in rates for the 2021 budget.

The MDC Alliance-led local authority has proposed a $4.1 billion working budget with plans to exhaust over $383 million towards upgrading the supply of portable water to the city’s 10 wards.

This city is already faced with acute water shortages which have resulted in residents receiving the necessity only twice a week.

The situation has been worsened by a sprouting Victoria Ranch housing project which has over 10 000 houses in urgent need of water and sewer reticulation system.

A further $53 million has been earmarked for the completion of the city’s main sewer line which was initiated nearly a decade ago and has not taken shape despite the local authority prioritising the project in its annual budgets.

The local authority said its major revenue sources will be from rates, service charges, licence fees, rentals, land sales and from external loans and grants.

Submitting the proposed budget, which has been rejected by residents as far from pro-poor, council said capital projects will chew over $529 million of the budget while $193 million will be used for governance, administration and technical services for council.

An amount of $1 million will be shared equally among the city’s 10 wards under the newly introduced ward development fund, where residents identify a developmental project for their respective wards.

“The ward development committee will choose one specific project that will fit the budget provisions.

“It is our request that these budget proposals for the year 2021 are adopted as we endeavour to advance the development of our city,” read part of the proposed budget.

However, a residents’ lobby group, Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) said the residents rejected the budget during consultation meetings amid reports some association members received threats for turning down the budget.

“We condemn in the strongest of terms efforts by elected officials who threaten and intimidate our members for expressing their views in local governance.

“Any attempt to silence the voice of residents will be resisted since we are there to enhance citizen participation in service delivery provision.

“We reject the proposed 750% rate increment; this budget is not pro-poor,” said MURRA spokesperson Godfrey Mutimba.