By Fitzgerald Munyoro | Nehanda Local |
MUTARE- Non-compliance in rate paying by local residents in Mutare has seen the debt owed to the city council soar to over ZW$900 million, it has been learnt.
Addressing city stakeholders and residents at the first ever state of the city address held at Mutare Hall on Tuesday, Mutare Mayor Councilor Blessing Tandi laid blame to some shortcomings in service delivery on the massive arrears which has accrued as a result of a huge number of residents not fulfilling their arrears.
“This council is going through a very difficult time. Ballooning debt has been a major cause for concern, Currently we are owed more than $900 million by our stakeholders and this debt has affected the smooth flow of delivery though we also attribute that to Covid 19 pandemic which has also affected projects we had for 2021,” said Tandi.
Since February 2021, the city council has been facing stiff resistance from residents after hiking rates by 500% which resulted in various residents associations and local pressure groups going on the offensive and launching a social media protest termed #RatesMust Fall.
The media protest evolved into a petitioned letter addressed to the minister of local governance. The said petition attracted 1000 signatures.
United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust programmes (UMMRT) director Edson Dube said he was not surprised by the massive debt as the city fathers made the decision to hike rates arbitrarily.
“The rates hike to begin with was a violation of legalities that govern municipal budgeting by the city of Mutare. The council did not consult residents in making the decision to hike the rates. It was a product of a flawed process and this is to be expected,” said Dube.
Meanwhile Councillor Tandi also appealed to the ministry of local government to distribute and disburse devolution funds set aside for infrastructural developments in an equitable and timeous manner as the Mutare City Council has so far only received a paltry $32 million out of the stipulated $264 million since taking over council affairs in 2018.
Councilor Tandi applauded the devolution initiative but also challenged the government to rise above petty politics and be forthcoming in releasing development funds.
“We want to appreciate the extension of an olive branch by the government which came in the form of the devolution grant and that has assisted us to roll out a number of developmental projects within the city.”
“As the local authority we have accessed 32 ,8 million dollars out of the budgeted figure of 264 million dollars.Some of the funds went towards the renovation of Mutare infectious disease hospital and completed the first phase of renovations.”
“However major renovations on the hospital has been affected by limited financial resources. At present we are procuring other material using our own funds which will cover the outstanding work on the hospitals.,” said Tandi.
He added that a further 57 million Zimbabwean dollars is needed to make the facility operational.
“We have been using the bulk of our internal funds on projects which should benefit from the devolution fund. We completed Sakubva Stadium renovations by ourselves.”
“As I highlighted earlier, we have only received 32 million.Yet to the best of my knowledge some rural councils have received more funds than us. This is not very logical as we need the funds more and have more taxing developmental and infrastructural needs,” said Tandi. Nehanda Radio