Huge debt cripples Gweru City Council

CHENGETAI MURIMWA IN BULAWAYO

The Gweru City Council says its service delivery is being severely hampered by the failure by residents and institutions to service their debts with the local authority.

Gweru City Council requires about ZWL$75m every month to effectively deliver service to residents and institutions.

But the city’s spokesperson, Vimbai Chingwaramusee, said residents and institutions owed Gweru City Council more than ZWL$270m at the end of December 2020.

Chingwaramusee said this during an online discussion “Billing System Explained” with Gweru residents and stakeholders.

“We are owed ZWL$270 235 005.32 and due to non-payment of the bills, service delivery is greatly affected as we fail to pay for water treatment chemicals thereby compromising water quality,” Chingwaramusee said.

“We fail to repair our road network, to buy pipes for repairing water and sewerage bursts, to buy adequate fuel for refuse collection and we can’t even repair the public lighting system.”

She said the city was failing to maintain its fleet and paying statutory obligations like pensions.

Asked why the local authority was not disconnecting the defaulting residents and institutions, Chingwaramusee said the local authority was using moral suasion by inviting debtors to come and make payment plans.

She said the city has suspended water disconnections “because we have to follow the Covid-19 guidelines”.

Chingwaramusee said the issuance of summons and attaching of residents’ property was not very popular with politicians.

She said the debt was incurring interest and those who are up to date were being granted discounts.

However, she said government departments that owe them millions of dollars in unpaid rates could be disconnected, although there was a tripartite arrangement to offset debts.

“We can disconnect government departments in the city and we will do so however we have a standing arrangement of doing a tripartite setoff of the bills between the City of Gweru, government departments and what we owe the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority,” Chingwaramusee said.

“The set off process takes time and has a lot of inconveniences. We have since written to all Government Departments that should their bills remain unpaid we may soon invoke the by law provisions.”

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