Mugabe 2013 pre-election debt write off still haunts local authorities

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By Alois Vinga

THE 2013 pre-election debt write off by President Robert Mugabe’s government still choking the balance sheets of local authorities with many failing to fulfil their financial obligations,” it has emerged.

Speaking at a local authority’s workshop Tuesday morning which was hosted by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Makoni Rural District Council chief executive, Edward Pise said the debt waiver was still haunting operations and making it difficult to meet tax obligations.

“A debt write-off effected in 2013 directing the cancellation of owed bills is affecting local authorities and this has made us to fail to meet our obligations,” he said.

“Furthermore, government brought in legislative pieces which have seen the wiping off of all revenue meant for the authorities.”

The debt was ordered by the local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere in what was widely seen as a vote buying gimmick by the ruling Zanu PF party.

The development cost the country’s 92 local authorities about $2 billion in potential revenue.

Meanwhile Pise also noted that their sector’s problems were being worsened by government’s failure to pay rates.

On that issue, the local ministry’s economist, Batanai Manwa, said that they were waiting for responses from the Finance Ministry.

“We raised these issues with the Finance Ministry and they said the law does not recognise anything like a debt write off,” he said.

“They then suggested to work on a debt set off under which a commitment to settle the local authorities’ debt was made.

“Most local authorities applied for the set offs and we have since submitted the paperwork to the Finance Ministry but no response has been received,” he said.