By Esther Madambi
Harare mayor Herbert Gomba has urged churches to build a strong relationship with the city fathers by paying rates on time.
He said this at the church and council interface held at City Sports Centre on Monday where he threatened to expose defaulting churches.
“A lot of churches in the CBD have not been paying rates lately and this has reached a very worrying rate.
“The debts that churches owe the council have reached an alarming figure that my team are not happy with it he said.
“We have three officers namely Chiwara, Tsikai and Usingarahwi who will be specifically waiting to deal with issues concerning churches.
“We will not allow you to queue but go direct to their offices and be served there and they are prepared to work until 7pm.
“In extending working hours Council is showing its seriousness in allowing all churches in arrears to clear their debt,” he said.
Mayor Gomba said failure to pay rates on time affected service delivery.
“Council will not move forward or provide enough services when people are not paying their debts.
“As we speak, Council is owed more than $800 million and these debts have accumulated over a very long time, some actually dates back to the Zimbabwean dollar era.
“The churches should stop complaining because the Government actually did them a favour by not rating their debts from foreign currency to RTGs which means they will still pay the same amount which they were supposed to pay in foreign currency.
“One of the sad story is these pastors actually afford to fly to all the places they want, go for vacations and drive expensive cars when their churches are in arrears.”
Mayor Gomba urged pastors to revise their priorities, urging them to clear their debts.
“As the Council we have decided that those churches who rent premises or those on lease will not be given new stands until they pay up their arrears.
“The churches have become too heavenly minded to an extent that anything that seem to be disturbing them is seen as of the devil.
“This time we want to let them know that they should leave this mind set, pay up their debts and start being earthly useful or we will expose them.”
He added: “We know that these churches complain about poor services delivery but we cannot deliver quality services if they do not pay up their rates because that money is the money that should cater for those services.
“The council ready to talk to these churches, make payment plans which they can deal with, we are trying by all means to assist them pay but if they do not pay up them we have to expose them and take further measure like taking them to the courts.”
However, different church pastors and bishops lodged their complaints, pleading with the city fathers to get a discounts and start afresh.
“We are aware that we owe the council huge amounts of money but we are asking if you can give us maybe 40 percent discount, make the situation easier for us and help us start afresh,” said Reverend Joseph Munemo who also graced the interface. H Metro