By Helen Kadirire
The Harare City Council (HCC) is getting tough with defaulting clients, and has started issuing final demands to 161 000 households to pay up their bills.
HCC spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told the Daily News that currently 10 000 summons were with the Messenger of Court ready for distribution, and 3 000 warrants of execution were with the messenger ready for dispatch.
After issuing notices of attachment, the seizure of property would immediately follow.
“Our latest efforts in the debt collection process have been to offer discounts, removal of interest and debt administration charges for full settlement of the balance. The response from ratepayers has, however, been lukewarm,” said Chideme.
He said in the meantime council would also continue with 24-hour notices for discussion of payment plans with defaulting clients to avert some of the drastic measures being taken them, adding that property attachments and blacklisting would remain the city’s last option if dialogue does not bear fruit.
As at April 30, this year, council was owed $756 million by its residents.
HCC’s latest debt breakdown shows that high density areas owe $198 million, low density ($216 million), industry ($318 million) and government ($10 million).
Chitungwiza, which receives its water supplies from the capital city, owes $10 million, while the other satellite towns are also indebted to the tune of $3 million (Norton), $99 000 (Ruwa) and $15 500 (Epworth).
According to city councillors, residents had stopped paying their bills in anticipation of a debt write-off similar to that which occurred in 2013, when the then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo gave a directive to all municipalities to cancel debts owed by residents as a Zanu PF elections campaign gimmick.
Apart from Harare, many local authorities are still reeling from the 2013 debt write-off which saw debts worth more than $500 million being cancelled.
The Zimbabwe Local Government Association has been against another debt write off and has found support from Local Government minister, July Moyo.
Moyo told the Daily News recently that the debt write-off which was used as a way to woo voters towards Zanu Pf will not happen again.
“With the current macro-economic thrust we are embarking on, a debt write-off will not work. It will not happen. Local authorities should be viable without depending on central government,” Moyo said.
Meanwhile, council is waiting for government to finalise its water plans for the city to avoid duplication, Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said.
Manyenyeni said while council was also looking into more water sources for its three million population government had also mentioned of similar plans.
This comes as Harare warned of an impending water crisis as the population and water sources no longer correspond, prompting city fathers to push Manyenyeni to ask for an indaba with government into the matter.
“We need our projects to dovetail. The last indication I got was from Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who indicated that government is coming up with a water solution for Harare and other cities. So we want to work with that in mind so that we do not step on each other’s toes as we will be both working for the same result,” he said.
Manyenyeni said the issue of water provision was very important for the city as it revealed how well a council was operating.
The water situation in Harare has become dire with council minutes indicating that unless a new water source was established, the city was falling into a crisis.
Minutes from the environmental management committee note that the water forum should also include satellite towns like Norton, Chitungwiza and Ruwa as well as the ministry of Finance.
According to the minutes, HCC has noted that despite the completion of Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Works, the city will always have water supply issues.
“Under matters for which the chairperson consent had been obtained, the committee expressed concern regarding the city’s continued water challenges despite the completion of MJ water works rehabilitation. The demand had exceeded the supply due to the ever increasing population.”
“New settlements continued to be established without corresponding new water sources. The industries were now being revived adding water demands to the city. The committee was of the view that it was high time a water forum be held to conscientise all major stakeholders including the Ministry of Water and Climate to seriously consider constructing new sources of water such a Kunzvi and Musami dams,” read part of the minutes.
The committee noted that in spite of all the rehabilitation and reduction of non-revenue water there was an urgent need to plan for new water sources before a serious crisis occurred.
Harare’s primary sources of water Lake Chivero can longer sustain the population as it is now too small and also heavily silted.
Apart from that prior to works being conducted to increase the design capacity of MJ it had also grown small.
Currently, the city is pumping 520 megalitres of water daily to the residents against a demand of more than 800 megalitres. Daily News