GWERU, MIDLANDS PROVINCE —
Gweru City council has been compelled to reverse a hike in tariffs following a local government ministry directive.
The Gweru City Council, which at the end of January had effected a 35 per cent hike on some rates and tariffs as proposed in its 2015 budget, was asked by the local government ministry to reverse the increase, which is yet to approve the budget.
Chairman Albert Chirau of the council's finance committee, who confirmed the directive, told Studio 7 that the ministry had said the local authority is working to fulfill the ministry's guidelines and hopes that the budget will be approved soon.
At the end of January and earlier this month, some Gweru residents staged demonstrations in protest against council's proposed rates and tariff hike as well as the local authority's decision to hand over defaulting rate-payers to debt collectors.
Chirau revealed that council needs to rationalize the salaries of management and senior staff and to ensure that wages and salaries do not gobble more than 30 percent of the local authority's revenue.
Cornelia Selipiwe is the chairperson of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association, one of the residents' representative groups whose members participated in the recent demonstrations against council.
Selipiwe says the reversal of the rates and tariff hike is welcome, adding that he hopes the local government ministry will not approve of the proposed 35 per cent increase.
Elsewhere, some Gweru street vendors, who sell their products on the city's streets, say they would like to meet the local authority and government representatives to find ways of stopping illegal vending.
In January local government minister Ignatius Chombo issued a directive to local authorities in towns and cities across the country instructing them to get rid of illegal vendors who are accused of littering and crowding the streets, disturbing other people from going about their day-to-day activities.
But the vendors say hardships brought by unemployment due to the country's economic problems are forcing them into illegal vending.
Forty nine year-old Pumuliki Kandege started selling fruits and vegetables from outside one of the supermarkets in Gweru in 2012 when her contract as a peer educator with one non-governmental organizations ended.
Kandege says she and her fellow vendors are law-abiding citizens who are trying to earn an honest living but often suffer abuse at the hands of the municipal police.