Mutare warned against tariff increase

MUTARE - Former Mutare mayor Brian Leslie James has threatened to drag the Mutare town clerk Obert Muzawazi to the courts if he introduces new tariffs without following proper procedures.

James has engaged prominent Mutare law firm Henning Lock to represent him and other concerned city residents to challenge the city fathers on the 2014 tariff increase.

James alleged the Mutare City Council had proceeded to implement the new tariffs before proper notification to residents through advertisements.

In a letter dated February 25, 2014 seen by the Daily News, James’ lawyers state they have “information that shows that you (council) are already charging the new tariffs.”

The letter is also copied to the city’s mayor Tatenda Nhamarare, who has brushed aside the threat saying; “It was within his democratic and constitutional right.”

Muzawazi could not be reached for comment but he was earlier quoted saying there were no plans to increase the tariffs.

James said the council was acting in breach of the law.

“You are the person responsible for ensuring that council complies with the law,” James’s letter to Muzawazi said.

“On behalf of our clients, we hereby warn you that any attempt to wrongfully enforce the implementation of increased charges or tariffs will be challenged in court and you will be cited in your personal capacity and costs on the higher scale against you personally will be claimed.”

The letter further warns that the council should advertise properly, and consider residents’ responses.

“We trust that you will ensure that no increased charges will be levied until the correct adverts have been placed and the public have had their legitimate right to object to such increases or to the proposed charges and budget — the full council have had the opportunity to consider such objections and any increased charges that have already been charged will be reversed,” the letter says.

“We also expect you to now publish the correct advertisements by no later than 7th March 2014 so as to allow for objections to be filed within the time limits provided.”

The lawyers accuse the council officials of not responding to an earlier correspondence from the former mayor in which he queried the claim by Mutare town clerk that tariffs for 2014 would not be increased.

Although rates and other charges remained unchanged, there were new tariff increases in a number of service charges including annual Licence Fees, Liquor Licences, Rates Clearance Certificates, Miscellaneous Charges in City Engineer’s Department, Licences.

James’ lawyer argues that it is a legal requirement that before council can implement any new charges, the correct adverts must appear in the local press and this must set out in full the proposed tariffs and any existing tariffs so as to give the public the opportunity to object.

He said there is breach of the law because the proposed new estimates and budget for 2014 were not placed before council before the end of the financial year ending December 2013.

“If that does not happen and you wrongfully implement new charges or tariffs — the matter will be pursued in the courts against you personally and any other persons/parties not complying,” said James’ lawyer.

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