Report by Yeukai Karengezeka
Harare City Council together with residents have called for Government’s intervention as the local authority is battling to meet its administrative and service delivery obligations due to decline in revenue collection since the beginning of the national lock down.
The council said since the beginning of the year it was collecting an average revenue of $13,8 million monthly but during the first month of Covid-19 it recorded $5 million only representing a 36 percentage revenue decline.
In an interview, Finance and Development Committee chairperson Luckson Mukunguma said the situation now required Government bail out.
“Our finances have been heavily affected by the lock down because residents are failing to honour their bills.As such this also negatively impact on our day to day operations. Definitely we need Government bail out in such situations,” he said.
Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said city was in a fix and also made a blunder to increase rates during the lockdown.
“This is an emergency situation where most organisations and individuals have been affected especially those that are unemployed and in the informal sector.The City of Harare has a worse off situation because they increased the rates during the lockdown when people are not generating any money for their survival. On top of that a lot of residents were lagging behind in their settling of the bills for rates and services,” he said.
Shumba said burdening residents with high rates can not yield fruitful results as most residents are already owing council millions of dollars and are failing to settle their debts.
He said under the prevailing circumstances it was high time that City of Harare and other local authorities approach the central government for help.
“Going forward, the City of Harare, along with the rest of urban and rural local authorities, should be seeking government bailout in order to deliver on their public mandates. Water, refuse collection, infrastructure development, housing, health and town planning services have suffered the most from the lockdown, and the Council has to deliver without fail,” said Shumba.
“If the citizens do not get the services they will blame both the Government and the local authority, therefore it is in the interests of local authorities and central government to reach an agreement on how to overcome the current situation resulting from the lockdown.”
Commenting on the move to hike rates, Mukunguma said the increase of tarrifs was not done specifically for the lockdown but it was something done in November 2019, when the budget was presented.