Lockdown blocks council revenue

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Men wear protective masks as they walk down a deserted street on the first day of the 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

GWANDA Town Council residents are struggling to pay rates to the city council following the national lockdown to combat the coronavirus, a situation city fathers fear could cripple service delivery.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

As part of a cocktail of measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, the government on March 30 declared a national lockdown, making it difficult for residents to visit council offices and pay rates.

The lockdown is expected to end on May 17.

“This thing (coronavirus) will hurt us big time. People are struggling to pay their normal rates because they don’t have money and also the fact that they are restricted going to town,” Gwanda mayor Jastone Mazhale told Southern Eye.

“Sometimes we spend a day without anyone coming to pay rates. However, there is nothing we can do because this is an international problem.”

Mazhale said government should assist municipalities with funding, lest they crumble.

“If government could chip in by (way) form of grants or funding, I think we will be able to go back on our feet,” he said.

Residents who spoke to Southern Eye said they were struggling to raise money to pay rates as companies declared they were incapacitated due to COVID-19.

“The situation is tough and we don’t even know where to start. As for me, the company I am working for refused to pay us our March salaries citing COVID-19 impact. We are also living in fear that they will also refuse to pay us our April salaries,” a resident, Dumezweni Hlatshwayo said.

Gwanda Residents Association secretary-general Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo said it would take time for residents to recover as most of them were involved in the informal sector.

“People don’t have money. Honestly, it will take time for them to recover given that many of them are not formally employed. They are working in the informal sector. There is no way people could raise money to pay rates,” he said.