By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
6 February 2014
The KweKwe city council is reeling from the ZANU PF directive to write-off residents’ outstanding utility bills, and have called on the Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo to offer a solution to the crisis.
MDC-T ward 3 councillor Weston Masiya said instead of coming up with a solution, Chombo was making things worse by barring council from taking action to force communities and businesses to pay their bills.
KweKwe is operating under a $12 million debt and is barely providing service delivery as any attempts to force debtors to pay are being blocked by Chombo. In line with the government directive, the council cancelled over $14 million in household municipal debt.
Big companies such as Ziscosteel (now NewZim Steel) ferrochrome producer ZIMASCO, Lancashire Steel and Tor Steel owe the council millions more.
‘The moment we attempt to cut off water to Ziscosteel and Redcliff, Chombo moves in to block it. So how are we going to recoup the money to enable us to sustain operations of the council if they do not offer any solutions to the problems,’ said Masiya.
Dozens of local authorities, among them Harare and Bulawayo, face uncertainty as operations risk collapse under a mountain of debt.
Already there are fears that failure to inject cash to sustain the councils will see operations grind to a complete halt this year.
Just before last year’s elections Chombo ordered local authorities to write-off residents’ outstanding utility debts. Critics described it as a vote buying exercise for ZANU PF.