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Zimbabwe Capital Gov't Threatens Property Seizures Over Unpaid Water Bills

Harare Mayor Masunda said the City Council seeks to recover $80 million in unpaid water and other utility rates by attaching and selling property unless residents and companies quickly pay arrears

Following a ruling by the Zimbabwean High Court that the Harare City Council can seize and sell property to cover unpaid municipal service bills, local officials said they will now move against 5,000 residents and 500 companies owing some 80 million dollars.

City Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said the council decided such action was necessary to recover at least part of US$170 million owed by households, companies and the national government, though in the latter case it is not clear what action it can take.

Masunda said the residents and companies can avoid seeing their property attached by making payment plans with the local authority.

The residents subject to attachment and sale of properties are mostly in the populous suburbs of Mbare, Kuwadzana, Kambuzuma, Tafara, Highfield and Mabvuku, whose residents are hardest hit by the country's lingering economic crisis.

Masunda told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that while the council is aware of the economic conditions facing residents, it has no choice if services are to be provided.

Warren Park resident Trevor Murari said the city should negotiate with defaulting rate payers. Highfield resident Angeline Kumwenda said the Council should forbear.

Harare Residents Association Chairman Simbarashe Moyo said affected residents should approach his organization for help if the city moves against their properties.