Buhera council, businesses clash over rates

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A row has erupted here between the business community and the Buhera Rural District Council over a 50 percent increase in services delivery charges.

The dispute resulted in the temporary closure of over 100 shops and other business operations at business centres and growth points in Buhera.

The affected enterprises were only re-opened after a court order and the violent intervention of war veterans last week.

But council has not yet returned goods estimated to be worth $15 000 it confiscated from the businesses during the crack-down.

The Buhera Business and Residents Association have petitioned the High Court in Harare to force the council to set aside the 50% rates rise.

The associations say the council did not consult businesses, residents and other stake-holders before the increases were effected and that service delivery was “non-existent” in Buhera.

Searchmore Kudenga, the association’s deputy chairman, vowed not to recognise the rise in services delivery charges saying they were illegal and unjustified.

Kudenga said the council was not repairing roads and sewers while water supply systems were perpetually breaking down resulting in serious water shortages in the district.

“Service delivery is non-existent,” Kudenga said. “The increases in the council charges do not correspond with development in the district.”

In papers filed at the High Court, the association said the rural district council increased rates and levies illegally because residents, businesses and other stake holders were not consulted as required by the law.

The association said the council, with the assistance of the police resorted to harassing business people and residents who were resisting the increases.

“They (the council and the police) have also gone further to confiscate goods in the shops belonging to applicant’s members, again forcibly, unlawfully and without the consent of the applicant’s members,’ the association said in the court papers. “