BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) says it is owed $19 billion by ratepayers, and is planning to come up with credit control measures to force them to pay.
In June, the debtors were only $6 billion but have ballooned to $19 billion.
Council’s finance and development committee chairperson Tawanda Ruzive on Wednesday told Southern Eye that the credit control programme that they have been implementing collapsed due to the ever-changing interbank rate, which caused ratepayers to default.
“Apparently the debt situation has worsened in the city in the past four months. At first we were billing using the rate of US$1 to $320, but now the rate is US$1 to $600. The charges have become astronomical for residents in Zimbabwe dollar terms,” Ruzive said.
“Council rates remain stagnant in US dollar terms. The real value when we talk of the United States dollar component remains the same at US$30 for high-density suburbs and US$60 for low-density suburbs. If we use the interbank rate to charge in local currency, that amount keeps rising every month,” he said.
“We were owed around $6 billion four months ago, but now the bill has skyrocketed to over $19 billion. The plan is to change the current budget so that it does not strain residents. If we increase the budget, it means that ratepayers will have to pay more.”
“We have actually secured vehicles which will be going around to the residents to follow up on amounts owed. We have not yet taken owing residents to court.”
Last year, BCC repossessed houses of defaulting residents and auctioned some of the properties.
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Meanwhile, BCC has urged stand owners who had completed paying for their land to top up with US$4 000 so that they can be allowed to commence construction. The stands cost US$16 000 each.
Council says it is failing to service the stands as some homeseekers had paid paltry amounts such as $18 000 through EcoCash for servicing of the stands.
Wisdom Dube, a council official said: “If the stand owners pay US$4 000, work will be done on site. If the money is not paid at the earliest time, then servicing of the stands will not be completed on time.”
BCC claims that it has been using funds from its coffers to service the land, despite its limited resources.
Residents are not happy about council’s decisions.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association secretary for administration, Thembelani Dube said three months back he wrote to BCC and the Local Government ministry demanding accountability on the use of the money that was paid by the homeseekers in 2016.
“We are now waiting for the Local Government ministry to respond so that council can stop swindling residents of their money. BCC is not being transparent with people, it is committing fraud,” Dube said.
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