SMEs fail to settle bills

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Small-to-medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) operating from council-owned Kadoma light industrial stands are engaged in a bitter wrangle with Kadoma City Council over huge unpaid debts dating back to 2009.

Recent attempts by the cash-strapped council to evict the estimated 34 bad debtors hit a brick wall after the operators, through their lawyer Steven Murambatsvina, obtained a court order stopping the expulsion.

The SMEs reportedly owe between $4 000 and $6 000 each in unpaid monthly rentals and rates arrears.

Secretary for Kadoma SMEs Tafireyi Mutota said the 34 members of his organisation who had not paid their bills were protesting the high rental fees charged by the council.

“Our members can’t afford rentals of $92 per month given the low volumes of business here. We have tried to engage the town clerk (Malvin Dondo) over the rentals, but he was evasive. We then resolved to boycott paying rentals, leading to accumulated bills,” said Mutota.

According to Kadoma SMEs, following the court action council was forced to the negotiating table and has since agreed to slash rentals to $32 per month.

“We have been at the negotiating table and we are now drawing a payment plan that will allow us to clear the bills. What is not certain is how many of us will be able to clear what we owe the local authority because the bills are too huge,” he added.

Mayor Peter Matambo acknowledged council was facing challenges dealing with businesspersons leasing their property.

“Our revenue collections are low and therefore there is need to intensify collection so we are able to pay workers and improve service delivery. “While we support small businesses in Kadoma, especially since they are now the major employers of our residents, they should be able to pay rentals on council property,” said Matambo.

Last year, the local authority dangled a carrot by offering a 50% discount on all outstanding bills in an effort to encourage ratepayers to settle their rates, but the offer excluded business premises.