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Facing Taxpayer Revolt, Harare City Authorities Call In Debt Collectors

In an effort to collect more than Z$4.6 billion (US$18.4 million) in back taxes, or rates, as they are known locally, Harare authorities are stepping up pressure on residents for payment, setting an Oct. 31 deadline and threatening to interrupt water service, issue court summonses and refer unpaid bills to collection agencies.

Many Harare taxpayers have been withholding payments for water and other services because delivery has deteriorated so dramatically. But citizens are also demanding new municipal elections to restore the city council that was superseded in 2004 by a commission whose members are appointed by the national government. But ruling party members of the city council continue to function under the commission.

The cash-strapped city council said this week that its tax-collection effort will include the issuance of summonses and water shutoffs. The council said that severe cash flow problems have prevented it from providing services at a normal level.

Combined Harare Residents Association spokesman Precious Shumba told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his association will continue to urge a boycott of rates until the city has a democratically elected council again.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...