Vic Falls Council, Residents Rates Dispute Persists

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By Matabeleland North Correspondent

Victoria Falls: Tension between city council and residents continues after the parties have failed to find common ground on what the latter finds as exorbitant water charges imposed for this year by the local authority.

Council last month effected a 400 percent increase in water and service charges resulting in residents petitioning councillors for engagement.

Victoria Falls City Council’s 2021 budget is close to US$5 million.

Residents said they had received water bills of about $4 000 last month and feared they will not be able to meet the payments.

Residents complained the rates were too high especially at a time the tourism town was on its knees because of the hardships brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant closure of the lucrative industry.

Residents want council to reduce the rates.

A meeting was held at the council boardroom Thursday but yielded no results.

Speaking after the meeting, Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association chairman Kelvin Moyo said no resolution was made at the meeting.

“We met council management today and we would like to reiterate that so far we have expressed demands of residents that the rates be reviewed downwards due to eroded disposable income,” said Moyo.

He said residents had been affected by Covid-19 while the 2021 budget was also disputable.

“The responses we got and the proposed further engagement is neither promising nor giving hope of any downward review on these tariffs.

“We are appealing to our councillors as the policy makers to assist in forging out a modest solution to this crisis,” said Moyo.

He said residents expected nothing less than a downward review of the tariffs because the tourism industry, which is the backbone of Victoria Falls’ economy, was hardest hit by the pandemic.

Victoria Falls mayor councillor Somveli Dlamini said the local authority will continue engaging residents.

The councillors have blamed residents for shunning budget consultation meetings as only a fraction of them attended the meetings.

Only about 80 objections on the proposed budget were also received.

Some residents have threatened to boycott paying tariffs as a means of forcing council to review downwards.