The gesture of benevolence exhibited by the Mutare City Council, in response to a recent visit to charities in the eastern border town by the Prime Minister, comes as an insightful eye-opener.
The charities that PM Morgan Tsvangirai visited last week include Zororai Old People’s Home, Probation Centre for Boys and Louden Lodge. They are places where deprived, destitute or physically challenged members of society are looked after.
Mutare city fathers appeared to have realised that these institutions needed societal intervention following the Premier’s visit.
“We were touched by the Premier’s visit to the needy in our city and as city fathers, we have seen it fit to scrap all rate charges from these centres,” the city’s deputy mayor George Jerison said.
While it is a noble decision the Mutare city took, one that should be lauded and emulated by the rest of local authorities countrywide, it comes as rather a curious revelation that all these years, local authorities have actually been demanding that these homes for the homeless pay for the water, electricity and other services the cities provide.
What we find incredulously insensitive of the mayors of our towns is the fact that they allowed, or even led, their councils into making such demands from hapless institutions which house people that come from the same communities from where the councils draw money to run the councils, including financing the reportedly obscene salaries and packages for their officials.
Is it not a curious paradox that the towns that collect money throughout the year to host Christmas parties and dole out goodies for charities, are the same that would go ahead to disconnect power or water supply because the charities have failed to raise enough money to pay their bills?
We do not believe it needed a visit by Prime Minister Tsvangirai for local authorities to appreciate the predicament that the needy of our society live in.
It did not need Tsvangirai’s visit for the city of Mutare to realise that the old people’s homes, reformatories and other such charities have more than enough difficulty raising three meals a day for their inmates without having to scrounge around for money to settle water and other municipal bills. And where is Zesa in all this?
The power utility which is in perpetual financial doldrums but which never seems to collect money from government, some of whose buildings (like Kaguvi and Mukwati in Harare) have their light switched on 24 hours a day, including Saturday and Sunday, throughout the year, could also be demanding that the poor homes pay their monthly bills without fail, or they are switched off.
What Mutare has started should automatically be followed by all other urban centres where charities that survive on handouts must not be made to pay for such basic necessities of life like water and light.
The city fathers should feel ashamed that they have over the decades been enjoying plush lives at the expense of senior citizens in old people’s homes, disabled members of society and other disadvantaged residents of their cities and towns.
We do not expect this to be made law, but a humane gesture by all urban councils and other utility providers to stop forthwith, collecting money from the less privileged and instead, make monthly pledges to assist the poor people.