HARARE mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, says council lacks moral ground to unleash debt collectors on defaulting residents given the failure by the local authority to adequately deliver and prioritise residents’ issues.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
Speaking at a residents’ convention on Tuesday, Manyenyeni reiterated that most of the money collected by council was going towards paying high salaries for council staff, hence, it was unfair for the local authority to unleash debt collectors on defaulters.
“It is unfair to claim money from residents so that we pay each other high salaries. Until our salaries can pass the test and until our salaries can be justified, we have no moral right or obligation to demand ruthlessly property from residents.
“The other problem is that the money being demanded by Wellcash is not realistic, as some of the amounts residents are reported to owe council are disputable. So there is a problem when these figures are contested. If the debt is being contested, we don’t have a firm argument to engage Wellcash,” he said.
Manyenyeni’s comments come in the wake of Harare City Council’s move to re-engage Wellcash Debt Collectors (Pvt) Ltd to recover money owed by residents.
The move has been met with stiff resistance from pressure groups and according to the Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA), the “debt collectors’ operations amount to extortion and daylight robbery”.
CHRA has said debt collectors were threatening residents with seizure of property and were also charging them an extra 10% on top of what they owe to council.
Harare residents have demanded for a debt audit on the grounds that most of the amounts residents are reported to owe council are based on estimates.
Manyenyeni said that of the $12 million council was collecting monthly, $10 million was going towards salaries and consequently, service delivery was suffering.
He said instead of focusing on low-income households, debt collectors must target businesses that owed council huge amounts of money.
“Why focus on low income households when others owe amounts as huge as $200 000?” he queried.
Wellcash Debt Collectors’ operations have stirred a lot of debate and controversy at Town House and in an apparent testimony to this, Manyenyeni told the residents’ convention on Tuesday that he never signed the debt collectors’ contract.
“You heard from previous speakers that I did not sign the Wellcash Debt Collectors’ contract. That is very true. What I can tell you is that we heard there was chaos when Wellcash started their operations and that is why I had to write a directive for them to stop,” Manyenyeni said.
In May, Manyenyeni wrote to acting Harare town clerk, Josephine Ncube ordering her to terminate Wellcash Debt Collectors’ contract saying they were operating in an unfair manner.
This followed insistent pressure from residents’ associations.