Since the collapse of Ziscosteel several years ago, the town of Redcliff has become synonymous with crisis and poverty.
Hundreds of people resident in this town have depended on the steel giant for their livelihood and so has the local authority there.
It goes without saying that with the mine shut, workers have no jobs. As a result, the local authority receives nothing in rates for services rendered to the town’s residents.
There is nothing the council can do because it is well aware its residents have nowhere to find the money to pay rates.
Yet, as a responsible authority, Redcliff Municipality cannot withdraw the essential services that it is obliged to provide its residents such as water, sewer reticulation and garbage collection.
But without any source of income to cover these costs, the council inevitably finds itself in perpetual debt — a debt that continues to grow without any solution in sight.
Meanwhile, the council has an obligation to pay its workers without fail. It is, therefore, not surprising that Redcliff finds itself in a labour dispute that has cost it money that it does not have.
We reported yesterday that the municipality had seven vehicles, including its only ambulance, attached by the messenger of court after failing to pay a worker who was irregularly dismissed.
The municipality has failed to pay $6 000 and must now lose seven vehicles, including the only life-saving ambulance.
What is disturbing is the deafening silence from the parent ministry, Minister Ignatius Chombo’s Local Government ministry.
It is not as if Chombo, his deputy, the permanent secretary and a host other top officials sitting at Makombe Building are not or have not been aware of the problems at Redcliff.
Is it not the ministry’s responsibility to bail out troubled councils such as Redcliff which are a genuine case of destitution? Is Chombo’s ministry only there to go about the country bullying local authorities and meddling in the financial affairs of those councils that have money?
Is it not only logical that as a responsible minister, Chombo should not have allowed the financially-beleaguered town to lose vehicles in order to settle a $6 000 debt?
The effect of the loss of the vehicles is felt most by the poor residents of this town who, because of their present situation, cannot afford other alternatives to the council ambulance.
The loss of the rest of the vehicles will obviously also impact on service delivery in the town and, given the council’s position, there is no likelihood the vehicles will be replaced any time soon.
It is not council’s fault that Redcliff finds itself in this predicament — nor is it the fault of the workers that they cannot pay rates for the services that they are receiving.
What is happening at Redcliff calls for national bailout and government should respond urgently to the SOS that Redcliff town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza has sent to Chombo’s office where it has apparently been left to gather dust on some shelf.
After all, it is because of government ineptitude that New Zim Steel, which is supposed to have long ago taken over Ziscosteel to reawaken Redcliff, has dismally failed to do so.