Mayor’s plan divides council

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Harare councillors are divided over calls by Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda for the local authority to attach property of residents failing to pay their bills.

The issue raised a storm at last week’s full council meeting after Councillor Herbert Gomba castigated Masunda for raising the matter in the media.

A special interest councillor aligned to Zanu PF, Charles Nyachowe, threatened a vote of no confidence in Masunda over the issue.

Tempers flared at the Thursday meeting with councillors exchanging harsh words.

While some councillors felt the move might make them unpopular with the electorate, others said council was not a charity organisation that “donates water freely to residents”.

Masunda was quoted as saying council had no choice but to attach and auction defaulters’ properties after residents’ ignored calls to negotiate payment plans.

Harare is owed $106 million in unpaid water and sewage charges only. “Residents must learn to pay because there is nothing for free,” said one of the councillors.

“If we supply water they have to pay for that service. We are not donors or priests.

“Harare is not a charity organisation.” But Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo said council had the legal right to attach defaulters’ property. “They have legal authority, but it’s a bit too cruel,” Chombo said.

“At least the city must come up with other methods, for example, meetings with residents and evaluate and ask for lesser payments.

“The city is being accused by the residents of using wrong conversion methods from the Zimdollar era so they need to clear that which in my view was untidy.

“They have to talk to people and they should clean up their billing system.”