Kusile RDC mulls legal action against defaulting safari farmers

BY RICHARD MUPONDE

CASH-STRAPPED Kusile Rural District Council (KRDC) in Lupane is mulling taking legal action against safari farmers who owe the local authority in excess of $200 000 in unpaid rates, thereby crippling its operations.

KRDC’s catchment area is predominantly safari and timber logging, but most of the safari owners are defaulting paying rates, some backdated to the inception of land reform programme at the turn of the millennium.

The situation has reportedly crippled the operations of the RDC, which was now planning to take legal action against the defaulters after efforts to engage them failed to yield any
results.

In the past, KRDC has had problems with loggers who defaulted on royalties, but it recovered the money and removed them from its timber concessions.

In November last year, KRDC terminated a contract with Rise Gate Timber, which was operating at its Shabu-Manase concession.

In 2010, the local authority also cancelled Platinum Timbers’ contract after the company failed to pay $120 000 in royalties accumulated over a period exceeding a year.

KRDC chief executive Christopher Chuma yesterday said his council was mulling taking legal action against defaulters.

“We are considering taking the legal route because section 151 of the RDC Act has a provision that we take legal action against defaulters by approaching the magistrates’ courts. The operators owe us over $200 000 and we have been engaging them so that we find a way they could liquidate their debts. Each time we call for a meeting, they don’t come. We have engaged their chairperson and impressed on him that his constituency should find ways of paying their rates and liquidating their debts,” Chuma said.

He also admitted that the defaulters were not making any business on their safari farms, hence failure to pay rates.

“There are one or two safaris operating. The rest are not making any money. We will continue to engage them so that they pay something because there isn’t any development as the local authority is cash-strapped. At least they should pay something for council to function well,” he said.

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