By Staff Reporter
RATEPAYERS from Mutare’s low density suburbs have set up a five-member committee that will engage city council authorities over proposed new rates in the 2021 budget they felt was both too expensive and biased.
Through the United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (UMRRT), residents of low density suburbs such as Murambi, Palmerstone, Fairbridge, Darlington, Greenside and Borderville said the committee will meet council management to discuss the way forward with regards to new tariff regime.
Residents feel council was deliberately charging higher rates in the city’s low-density suburbs under the false belief they were people of means.
They argue the current economic crisis affected everyone in the country.
The City of Mutare is proposing a US$33 million 2021 budget to meet service delivery concerns, according to finance director Blessing Chafesuka.
This is a massive upsurge from the 2019 budget of $31.1 million (RTGS), depicting how inflation has fast become erosive.
Chafesuka bemoaned the current inflationary environment in the country as the biggest let-down when tendering for services and equipment with intent to get cost effective pricing.
In the budget proposal, sewage and water tariffs for residential areas remain the same as effected in March, but all commercial and industrial sewage and water tariffs as well as miscellaneous tariffs were increased ranging from 120 to 350 percent.
All commercial and industrial tariffs increased by 350 percent with sewage for commercial properties going up from $54 to $243.
Water charges’ fixed rates went up from $427 to $1923.
Parking discs have gone up by 300 percent, up from $10 to $40.
But residents in low density areas say they were concerned about the rate increase and supplementary charges beyond the reach of many including small business.
“The budget has highlighted a lot of irregularities and how they have come about with such figures. There are also inconsistencies in the format and charges in the budget,” said former mayor Brian James.
He argued that the sliding scale and variation in billing used by the council was chocking residents of low-density areas who are mainly pensioners.
Other residents complained that council has reclassified flat in the city to commercial without notification.
Residents complained that there was a big variance between what council is charging for the low density and high density.
“The economic meltdown is affecting everyone in the country. So, it’s awkward for someone in Dangamvura to pay $200 for water and for someone in Palmerstone to pay $2 000 for the same water.
“Everyone is entitled to fair treatment under this economic situation. Water treatment is cheap in Mutare and why is there a disparity between high and low density. We need clarification,” said another resident.
They also said council should spare a thought for a few remaining businesses in the city by charging reasonable amounts in terms of shop licences so that they remain afloat.
“We are struggling, and council should not milk us the little that we are getting. They should strike a balance judging from the prevailing economic situation in the country,” said a local businessman.
UMRRT Programmes Coordinator Eddison Dube said their organisation will always support dialogue between residents and local authority.