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Is Gweru Council Defying Order to Write Off Residents' Debts?

  • Taurai Shava

City of Gweru

City of Gweru

Some Gweru residents are complaining that the Gweru City Council is not complying with a local government ministry directive to cancel all debts owed by residents across the country from February 2009 to June this year.

The residents say their latest bills show that the council has not slashed their bill arrears in defiance to the directive issued by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo just before the July 31 elections.

A resident who only wanted to be identified as Mupeta says his bill for the month of August, which he received a few days ago, shows that his $820 debt has not been cancelled.

Chairman Cornelia Selipiwe of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRAA), which is one of the residents’ representative groups, says similar complaints have been raised by some residents.

But Selipiwe says he is satisfied that the local authority will comply with the directive.

It is not all gloom with other residents like Thomas Dingwiza of Athlone who says he received his bill Tuesday morning reflecting that his $500 debt had been slashed.

Dingwiza, who previously disputed the council’s billing system, says he’s happy about the move.

However, he hopes the debt cancellation will not affect service delivery in the city.

Finance director Edgar Mwedzi of the Gweru City Council says the local authority is complying with the directive, adding residents whose bills have not been adjusted should approach council.

Mwedzi said in the 5-year period for which the debt cancellation directive has been given, residents owed over $8 million in rates and tariffs while commercial and industrial concerns owed $13.8 million up to June this year.

Selipiwe said GRAA welcomes Chombo’s directive, adding it will assist most ordinary Zimbabweans who have been finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Elsewhere Bata Shoe Company workers returned to work yesterday following the firm’s annual shutdown beginning of last month.

Some workers feared the shutdown, coming hard-on-the-heels of the July 31 elections, meant the move could have been politically motivated resulting in job losses.

The company, one of the few big companies that remain operational in Gweru, employs 1,500 workers and normally shuts down in December.
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