|File picture: Minister July Moyo|
…residents declare ‘war’ on city fathers
Local government Minister, July Moyo recently approved the City of Masvingo’s 2021 budget although residents had raised objections against the proposed budget, TellZim News has learnt.
According to the dictates of the Urban Councils Act, at least 30 objections from residents are enough to shelf a budget and order a review before sailing through.
Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15 Section 219 provides for a provision where if objections are lodged “by thirty or more persons who are voters or who are users of the service,” council must reconsider the charges or tariffs.
However, Moyo seems to have ignored all these objections and went on to approve the city’s budget, a move which has irked residents who feel the rates being sent to them are beyond their reach and do not represent what they said during budget consultations.
Recently residents received ‘exorbitant’ water bills for February which have been revised upwards by over 500 percent.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) Information Officer, Godfrey Mtimba expressed disappointment in the latest development and said the local authority should consider reducing the rates with immediate effect or expect retaliation from residents.
“We are extremely concerned, our position is that residents vehemently rejected the hiking by over 500% and even went further to write objection letters after the proposed budget was advertised in the press, in line with the dictates of the Urban councils Act, but all those efforts were disregarded by the council for the reasons best known to them.
“We will however, through massive consultations from our broad membership seek way forward, but I foresee a protracted battle. These rates must fall, residents cannot afford them, they are atrociously high at a time their source of income has not been increased by a similar rate,” said Mtimba.
Masvingo mayor Collen Maboke confirmed that the local authority received the objections and forwarded them to the minister for consideration together with the proposed budget.
“About 30 objections were raised and in terms of the Urban Councils Act we have to look at those objections and respond to them one by one so we then sent the objections together with the budget to the minister. The minister had the prerogative to approve the budget since we had done our own part,” said Maboke.
Residents who were averaging $500 in water bills recently received an average of $2 500 for the month of February which translates to over 500 percent.
The 2021 approved budget will see each high density property paying an average of $2 630.56, commercial $8 466.22 and low density $2 360.56.
Many ratepayers who are informal have lamented this hike which they feel is beyond their reach considering business and income has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Masvingo Service Delivery Residents and Ratepayers Association (Masdrra) secretary general, Moses Mavhusa said his organization was disappointed with the city fathers whom they will engage to reduce the tariffs.
“The Town Clerk confirmed of an effected increase on services but he said he wasn’t aware of the actual percentage. We are very much concerned and disappointed because households are receiving water once or twice a week while some don’t get a drop for the whole month. As an organization we are going to engage the city fathers because there is no justification for these tariff increases,” said Mavhusa.
Masvingo Residents Forum (MRF) secretary general, Prosper Tiringindi said the local authority had gone against the wish of residents and that they should brace for a confrontation.
“Residents disregarded this budget since its formation but the local authority took us for fools and went on to effect a budget which we objected. If discussion fails, us as residents we will start war, we will boycott paying those bills,” said Tiringindi.
However, Acting Town Clerk Engineer Edward Mukaratirwa said council considered all objections which they went on to forward to the minister.
“Objections were considered and council addressed those and forwarded them to the minister for consideration as well. Before the approval, the minimum bill for high density suburb properties was $572 for water consumption upto 5 cubic metres, refuse, sewage and supplementary charges,” said Mukaratirwa.
Efforts to get a comment from Minister July Moyo were futile as his mobile was not available up until the time of going to print.
Many cities and towns in the country are facing a resistance from residents over hiked 2021 budgets that residents claim to have objected during budget consultations.
Gweru City Council on Monday (March 1) conducted an engagement meeting with residents to try and find common ground over differences in the 2021 approved budget for the local authority.Mutare recently reduced rates after a strong #RatesMustFall campaign by residents who felt council was charging too much for its services.