HomeNewsGweru chokes under $250m debt

Gweru chokes under $250m debt

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The Gweru City Council debt has ballooned to $250 million as of September 30, an increase of $64 million from $186 million in a space of one month, a senior council official revealed yesterday.

BY Stephen Chadenga

Speaking during a stakeholders consultation meeting for the 2021 budget, acting finance director Michael Verenga said ratepayers were not honouring their obligations, making it difficult for council to fund its operations.

“Our debtors as at September 30 2020 stood at $250 million up from $186 million as at August 31,” Verenga said.

“It appears there is loss of appetite by residents to pay their bills. We urge ratepayers to honour their obligations.”

He said council’s creditors stood at $132 million during the same period with Zesa being owed over $70 million.

Speaking at the same event, mayor Josiah Makombe pleaded with ratepayers to pay their bills to ensure the city carries its mandate of providing services to residents.

“The city continues to experience financial woes due to reluctance by residents to pay their bills,” Makombe said.

“This is manifested by the ever-increasing level of debtors. I humbly plead with stakeholders and clients to honour their bills to ensure quality service provision.”

Makombe said council revenue collection continues to fall far short of its recurrent expenditure, a scenario he said was affecting the municipality’s obligation to its creditors.
He said the low cashflow was also affecting service provision.

Council said it required more than US$1 million from the city’s 2021 budget for a new dumpsite at Go-Beer Farm as the old one was situated near Woodlands residential area, resulting in children picking up used face masks thus endangering their health.

This was disclosed by Makombe on Wednesday during a Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) budget consultation event in Mkoba suburb.

Makombe said the US$1 million required had already been factored in next year’s budget proposals for the city.

“We need over US$1 million to remove the dumpsite (in Woodlands) away from the people to another site,” Makombe said.

“The relocation is quite expensive and we are looking for potential developmental partners to collaborate with us in the new dumpsite.”

He blamed government for allowing housing projects near the dumpsite, saying when the landfill was identified some years ago, the place was regarded as unfit for human settlement.
Makombe, however, said council had identified a site at its Go-Beer Farm to be used as the new landfill.

“Our engineers are in the process of surveying this site (at Go-Beer Farm) to establish if it is suitable for the new dumpsite,” he said.

GRRA director Cornelia Selipiwe said the relocation of the dumpsite was long overdue as residents continued to be exposed to pollution from the landfill.
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