Government has ordered local authorities to write off debts accrued by ratepayers in 2009 and outlawed the attachment of defaulters’ properties for unpaid bills.
The move comes after Harare and several other MDC-T-dominated councils reportedly embarked on accelerated debt recovery methods.
Sesel Zvidzai, the Local Government, Urban and Rural Development deputy minister, said councils must instead engage residents in a “civilised manner”.
“There are councils auctioning people’s property for failing to settle bills,” he said.
“We don’t fight the poor. All local authorities should engage people in a civilised manner and anybody who uses that route is warned to stop that particularly in an economy emerging from difficulties.”
He said some of the debts were accrued during the switch to the multi-currency regime in 2009 and the hyper-inflation era. “We encourage local authorities countrywide to write off at least 50% of the 2009 debts,” Zvidzai said.
“There were problems, no one had money and they have to understand that,” Zvidzai said.
Harare City Council has threatened to take legal action against residents with unpaid bills.
In a notice, the local authority said it was also embarking on water disconnections targeting defaulters.