GWERU, MIDLANDS —
Some Gweru residents on Thursday staged a peaceful demonstration in the Midlands capital against what they say is council's insensitivity on hardships faced by locals.
More than 40 local people, carrying placards and singing revolutionary songs, marched in Ascot and Mbizo high density suburbs before converging at the local authority’s Revenue Office in Mutapa.
The demonstrators, calling for the Gweru City Council to stop the proposed rate increases and reversal of its decision to refer defaulting ratepayers to debt collectors, also denounced corruption which they claimed was almost crippling the city.
The residents did not name the council administrators allegedly involved in corrupt activities, saying the local authority was not catering for their needs.
Chairperson Cornelia Selipiwe of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers’ Association told Studio 7 residents are angry that the proposed rate increases of up to about 35 percent will seriously affect their families as they are living from hand to mouth.
Selipiwe said it is surprising that council intends to hike rates and tariffs when ratepayers are struggling to pay the current charges.
A resident, who identified herself only as Ms. Hungwe, echoed the same sentiments, adding that council owes its workers several months’ wages, so the city fathers must understand that times are tough for ordinary people.
Another resident, Don'tcare Nhukarume, also complained about the council’s position on cutting off water supplies to defaulting ratepayers.
Nhukarume said, “Some of us have had our water supply disconnected. Our children no longer use the toilets as we have no water; they now relieve themselves anywhere. Even some adults are doing the same, they relieve themselves in the streets or the drains.
“Human waste is piling up everywhere and this can cause diseases … council cannot solve the problem of defaulters by cutting off water supplies.”
The demonstration is the second this month after another one that was staged two weeks ago by some Mkoba residents over similar concerns.
Selipiwe said most residents, who owe council thousands of dollars, are willing to enter into payment agreements with the council but claimed that some council officials are not willing to make such arrangements.
Studio 7 was not able to get a comment from Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi, who was said to be busy attending to various issues.
But during the demonstration that the residents staged a fortnight ago, Kombayi promised that council would meet and adopt a resolution to give defaulting residents an opportunity to make payment arrangements with council rather than refer them to debt collectors.
As the country's economy continues to experience problems, most councils in Zimbabwe are finding themselves clashing with residents who are finding it difficult to pay rates and tariffs.