By Matabeleland North Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS: Council here has come under fire from residents who have accused the local authority of trying to “punish” women for getting pregnant after the municipality proposed to hike clinic fees.
Maternity fees for pregnant women who are booked with council clinics will fork out US$28 while those who only come to deliver will pay US$60. This excludes delivery and ward fees which are proposed to be US$20 each.
The fees are contained in the council’s proposed budget for 2021 which is pegged in United States dollars, a departure from the 2020 budget which was in local currency.
Besides hiking maternity fees, the council has also proposed to introduce a special health levy in which residents will pay US$1 per month for those in high-density areas, US$2 for those in the medium density, and US$3 for low-density dwellers, while those living in flats and those in commercial properties like hotels and lodges will pay US$3 and US$10 per respectively.
Speaking at a recent stakeholders’ meeting, residents appealed to the municipality to slash its rates.
“Don’t punish women for bearing children. That is why people don’t register. If you reduce those fees people are going to register and improve access to safe prenatal health and reduce mortality. Reduce clinic fees because you have introduced a health levy,” said one resident.
Another resident said the council should take bearing babies as a national duty.
Victoria Falls town treasurer Nevile Ndlovu said the fees were only a proposal and residents have a right to oppose them by lodging objections after the council advertises them.