Gwanda municipality and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) are fighting over a $46 000 debt which the agency claims the local authority owes it in unpaid fines and compulsory fees.
Gwanda mayor Lionel DeNecker on Tuesday told NewsDay that EMA was bleeding the local authority and other stakeholders in Gwanda through what he termed unjustified penalty fines for environmental pollution offences.
“We are said to owe EMA $46 172 and we dispute the figure. The problem we have with the agency needs to be addressed soon. EMA appears to be above the law. How can an agency be allowed to charge fines which even the police have no jurisdiction to charge?” asked DeNecker.
He said the police could only fine offenders a maximum of $20, but EMA was being allowed to charge up to $5 000 as a spot fine.
EMA national spokesperson Steady Kangata on Tuesday dismissed the mayor’s claims as baseless.
“One needs to get facts right before complaining. The fines we enforce are of stipulated levels enshrined in the Environmental Management Act gazetted by the Attorney General’s Office and are called ‘general standards scale’. These fines apply universally across Zimbabwe and range from level one which is $5 to level 14, which is $5 000,” said Kangata.
However, DeNecker stood his ground: “It is clear that as a country we are coming from a situation where all the local authorities and government departments could not adequately fund their operations and we are still recovering from that.
“We expect EMA to be reasonable and stop further deepening crises in local authorities through such ridiculous charges and fines. If the law allows them to do so, it (the law) must be repealed.”
But, Kangata said EMA moved into local authorities to impose fines after realising that environmental laws were being violated willy-nilly.
He said they would not stop executing their mandate despite protests by local authorities.