By Kenneth Matimaire
THE Mutare City Council and ratepayers are headed for a showdown following a circular issued Thursday by the local authority threatening to cut water supplies to residents.
The city council is demanding that all residents and stakeholders should approach the municipality and make payment plans to clear arrears.
The circular dated July 29 warned the council, with immediate effect, would disconnect services to residents and stakeholders in arrears and who do not have a payment plan.
However, residents through their associations immediately sprung to action and vouched to fight what they termed as an “inhumane and ill-timed move”, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic where water is a necessity to fight the virus.
However, the council justified their decision to take action against defaulters arguing there are ratepayers who have not settled their monthly bills as far back as 2008.
Mutare spokesperson Spren Mutiwi further explained the circular was a mere warning and targets ratepayers who have no payment plans to clear their debts.
“This is just a warning and it’s speaking specifically to people with arrears but do not have payment plans with council. We also have ratepayers with arrears and payments plans. These are not affected by the warning,” he said.
“We are targeting those who have abandoned their monthly obligations to pay rates and have not bothered to approach the council to make payment plans,” Mutiwi told NewZimbabwe.com.
“Surely, what do you expect the local authority to do when there are people who have not paid rates since 2008? So, consider this a call to ratepayers to come and make payment plans, which are flexible,” he added.
Mutiwi said the local authority depends on the same rates to ensure that services are delivered to the affected ratepayers.
“The same people who are not paying, demand the same services. So, it’s a balancing act, we need people to at least take steps towards extinguishing their debt instead of literally reneging the same.
Council requires financial resources to ensure that services continue to be rolled out and in this environment water is an essential service and for us to provide it there is a cost attached to it and if we collectively play our part the burden that has been shouldered by faithful residents will be minimised,” he said.
Mutare is currently owed $895 million in unpaid rates up from $400 early this year as more ratepayers continue to default on rates following a massive hike of rates.
However, residents would have none of it.
United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) described the development as ill-timed as water was essential to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
UMRRT programmes officer Edson Dube vouched to fight the council over the matter.
The Trust obtained a High Court order last year, instructing the council to supply safe and potable water as well as an interdict against water disconnections.
“As an institution, we will fight council over this (water disconnections). In as much as we need money, many lives are at stake here,” he said.
Water plays an integral part in the fight against Covid-19, so any disconnections will be catastrophic. So this is just irresponsible and ill-timed,” said Dube.
Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA) reiterated the same sentiments before it urged residents to resist the bully antics by the local authority.
“The action is not only inhumane, malicious but unlawful to the consumers whom they purport to be stakeholders. The whole plan is radical and does not consider the plight of the citizens who are struggling due to the Covid-19 close-down, where there are limited income-generating activities.
“How could a normal person disconnect water during this Covid-19 pandemic? This nonsense must not only be stopped but should be rejected with the contempt it deserves,” said MURRA programmes director David Mutambirwa.