The City of Harare said that it will convert residents’ unpaid Zimbabwe dollar bills and rates to United States dollars if the debts remain unpaid three months after a payment plan has been agreed to.
The Harare City Council (HCC), in a statement on Twitter on Thursday, said failure to pay after three months, residents will have their debts converted into foreign currency, at the interbank rate so that the local authority preserves the value of the money. Read the statement:
Residents who fail to retire their debts within three months of being invited to negotiate payment plans will have their outstanding debts converted to United States dollars at the interbank rate and pay the debts in US$.
Council owed over $17 billion. Money owed to council is losing value daily and when it is finally paid, it will not meet its budgeted targets.
Hedging the debts, against the United States dollar, will help council maintain value when it’s finally paid.
Responding to the announcement by Harare City Council, Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director Precious Shumba said the move is not justified as bills are based on estimates. He said:
Without undertaking means testing to establish the levels of household economy among ratepayers, the rates charged by the City of Harare are only informed by measures outside the life of residents.
The City of Harare’s 2022 budget was prepared with residents being consulted through WhatsApp groups.
This reaches an insignificant number to be reflective of the aspirations of ratepayers.
There are known big debtors in areas like Avondale, Borrowdale and other low-density suburbs whose debt is enough to run Harare, but these debtors are more powerful and influential. Therefore, they are not always threatened with a summons.
The HRT will be mobilising ratepayers to educate them to know what they need to do when they receive a summons.
Residents must not be afraid because the City of Harare has not provided them with accurate states of their accounts.
The bills are currently based on estimates with some of the debt contributed by refuse collection and water consumption, yet the City of Harare has largely neglected to provide the services. Water supplies are erratic. Refuse is not being collected.
Shumba said the City of Harare has no moral obligation to intimidate residents because of their poor service delivery but should repossess City Parking’s finances and channel the funds towards service delivery.
A Harare resident, Kwandinobva, who responded to the Twitter post by HCC to converts bills to USD, said:
Nonsense! There is no law like that in this country! Kupusa chete. You can’t make money. You can’t make people pay. Zvimitemo zvomoda kuisa izvi hazvishandi futi and it’s illegal!