- Residents cry foul, call for reconsideration
- Mayor urges ratepayers to look at the upward review of rates with an objective mind
MUTARE – A showdown is looming between Mutare City Council and Mutare residents after the local authority increased rates by almost 500 percent.
Residents groups in Mutare slammed the move by Mutate City Council saying the increments came at a time the majority of residents are feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Trust (UMRRT) Programmes Director Edison Dube condemned the move by Mutare City Council saying it is a violation of legal provisions governing municipal budgeting.
“We are very concerned with the recent tariff hikes on the basis that it is a product of flawed process. The City of Mutare has once again clandestinely increased tariffs without approval and inspection by residents despite several efforts made by UMMRT to get Council to charge reasonable tariffs during the COVID -19 pandemic,” he said.
“We have appealed to council several times to consider ratepayers during this pandemic. Most citizens are unemployed, nonessential business are closed, informal sector is on lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic makes their situation worse. Residents and ratepayers are financially crippled and for Mutare City Council to continue milking them when they have objected last budget is unbelievable.”
“We view this as undemocratic and it is evident that the Mutare City Council is going to face a huge resistance from the residents who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Dube.
Dube said section 288 (2)(a) of the Urban Councils Act 29:15 stipulates that: “When the estimates presented in terms of subsection (1) the council shall ensure that copies of the estimates are forthwith made available for inspection by the public.”
He said this provision gives residents and ratepayers’ powers to object the proposed tariffs for reconsideration.
“Residents have had concerns since last year on proposed charges, but the concerns were not met with the seriousness they deserve. The City Council just went on to hike tariffs ignoring the several objections,” said Dube.
“UMRRT reiterates that any budget or rates increment that is a product of flawed process will definitely impact revenue collection because of lack of buy in by residents. We appeal to City Council to reconsider the tariffs hike because it is not sustainable in this economic environment. We recommend that the City Council strongly takes into consideration the concerns of the residents and revert back to old tariffs,” said Dube.
Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURA) Programmes Director David Mutambirwa said the “City Fathers are expected to have a human face and take the plight of the citizens before imposing unaffordable and unsustainable rates to the residents and ratepayers.”
“Due to the poor economic climate worsened by the COVID-19 lockdown, most of the companies and the informal sector including residents have not been any productive activities and as such they are not in a position to generate income to pay for the utilities,” he said.
“Our recommendation as an association is to reject the unaffordable rates. We are lobbying and advocating the council to desist from punishing the poor citizens who are already failing to make ends meet,” said Mutambirwa.
The business community has not been spared in the steep hike of fees.
The Small to Medium and Enterprises Chairman for Manicaland Province Moses Magura said the business community in Manicaland were praying that council review their charges downwards.
“We are not happy by the rates that are being charged by council. We engaged Council last December to come up with a workable solution and they promised to come back to us after going through our proposals. We are being affected by COVID-19 inspired lockdown since March 2020 and we are now praying for council to review their rates downwards,” said Magura.
Mutare Mayor Blessing argued that the residents must take the council’s move with an objective mind.
“My encouragement to the members of our community is to take our budget with an objective mind. We have a lot to be done for a smooth flow of service delivery in the city,” he said.
“We have crafted our budget based on the recommendation of the 2017 base. The 2017 bills were around US$24 but now the bills are around US$18 and the maximum might be US$21 in total bills.”
“Water is one of our thorn in flesh because that’s where I think I think our outcry is,” said Tandi.