BULAWAYO City Council is requesting beneficiaries of residential stands to top up their balances as well as make extra subscriptions in United States dollars for servicing of their stands.
The decision to request the homeseekers to make US dollar top-ups and US dollar part payments for council services is prudent given the prevailing hyperinflationary environment in the country characterised by an ever-weakening local currency. It no longer makes any economic sense for local authorities to accept payment exclusively in the local currency given that service providers, who include workers, and suppliers of goods are all demanding US dollar payments.
Bulawayo and other local authorities, especially urban councils, have no choice but to demand payment for council services in both local and foreign currencies if they are to survive in these trying times.
It is a pity that many councils have lagged in servicing residential, industrial and commercial stands simply because they have received little assistance from central government which each year is supposed to avail budgeted devolution funds for this purpose.
As the country heads for polls in a month’s time, it is quite ironic that the ruling Zanu PF party is blaming urban local authorities for neglecting their areas of jurisdiction yet the central government for the past 43 years has been giving councils little to no financial assistance despite the national budget making such provision.
Local authorities’ jurisdictions are currently in a very sorry state simply because government has been reneging on its responsibility of financially cushioning councils for political expediency.
If Bulawayo, for instance, had received its share of budgeted devolution funds it should have serviced all its stands and would not be burdening beneficiaries by asking them to pay foreign currency top-ups.
Zanu PF and its government would have been making a strong case against the opposition-dominated councils if devolution funds had been timely availed and were misused by the local authorities. As it is, government cannot blame the councils for failing to deliver because its claims are baseless if it is not fulfilling its part of the bargain.
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Bulawayo and all other councils are justified to demand US dollar payments for the services they render to residents because this is the only way they can sustain themselves amid an ever-weakening local currency.