'Another debt write-off may hurt city'

BULAWAYO - Government has strained Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s public finances and undermined an already ailing municipality after a $46 million debt write-off for ratepayers and moves to do something similar ahead of next year’s general elections.

Ahead of the 2013 election that gave President Robert Mugabe election triumph, government provided 100 percent debt relief to ratepayers.

Then Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo instructed all 92 local authorities in Zimbabwe to write-off residents’ rentals, unit tax, development levies, licences and refuse charges as at June 30, 2013 as part of the ruling party’s election campaign.

Taking a cue from how the move won votes, city fathers here fear government could waive debts to ratepayers again to woo voters in the run-up to a hard-fought general election in 2018 when Mugabe is expected to run for re-election.

BCC acting financial director Cyprian Dabengwa cautioned that the anticipated write-off has encouraged ratepayers not to pay bills, deepening malaise in the municipality already saddled with bad debt.

“Now that we are towards the election, we are now seeing a trend where people are now slowing down in terms of payment. Our hope is that there won’t be any debt write-off,” Dabengwa told a news conference yesterday, warning central government to seriously consider the repercussions of such a move.

“As a local authority, we have made representation to government that when you write-off the debts; let’s consider the costs that council has incurred in terms of providing services. So we are very hopeful that another write-off is not likely to come.”

The acting financial director said the 2013 debt write-off caused disharmony among ratepayers.

“Because at the time when there was a debt write-off, there was a situation where those people who were paying felt that they were supposed to be rewarded in terms of their performance.

“As a city, we wrote off or we rewarded them in terms of a discount. But now the challenge is people have realised that if you don’t pay you will be rewarded for that.”

He said the BCC debtors had now risen to $157 million.

“That debt write-off is still having an impact in terms of our collection,” Dabengwa said.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.