…say lockdown has rendered many people destitute
Chiredzi residents have complained that the 150 percent rate hike approved by council was insensitive to people’s worsening earning capacity caused by the national lockdown which has since been extended indefinitely.
The Ministry of Local Government last month approved Chiredzi Town Council $54 million budget for the 2020 financial year.
The budget relies on residents paying 150 percent more than they had been paying before for water, refuse collection and other council services.
At many ward-based coronavirus awareness campaigns being undertaken by the United Chiredzi Residents and Ratepayers Association (UCHIRRA), people complained that the new charges appearing on their May bills were exorbitant.
At one of the meetings, Ward 6 Councillor Musingashari Musingashari faced furious residents who said they were disappointed that council had made adjustments to the billing structure apparently with little regard to the economic impact of the lockdown on livelihoods.
“We are surprised that as council, you decided to increase rates yet we are in national lockdown which means many people are at home earning nothing. What is the logic of increasing rates on residents who are facing an unprecedented erosion of their livelihoods?” asked on female resident.
Another resident said the new rate structure was not justifiable as council had not improved service delivery despite similar hikes in the past.
“This has no justification because service delivery remains poor especially with regards to the provision of safe drinking water. Many residents seldom receive council water yet it is an essential service in efforts to improve hygiene and fight the spread of coronavirus,” he said.
In response, Musingashari said he acknowledged residents’ concerns but added that council had no options as inflation was eroding capacity to deliver services using the old rate structure.
“I am very much aware of your concerns as residents but the hyperinflationary environment spares not even our town council. We need to pay salaries and pay our electricity bills which are not even affordable to us,” said Musingashari.
He said council also needed to pay sugar company Tongaat Hulett which helps the local authority to purify its water.