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Mujuru, Chombo Urge MDC Ministers to Scrap Residents' Debts

Vice President Joyce Mujuru and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo are calling on outgoing Movement for Democratic Change cabinet ministers to scrap electricity and water debts owed by the government and residents.

The arrears run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

During the campaign period, Chombo ordered local authorities to scrap billions of dollars in outstanding water and utility bills from 2009 to 2013.

In April, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority threatened to disconnect defaulting consumers as unpaid bills reached US$774 million resulting in serious cash-flow problems for the power utility.

Investigations by the Daily News, revealed President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, as at December 31, 2011, owed ZESA over $345,000 in unpaid power bills at their multiple farms.

Most Zanu-PF cabinet ministers who own farms have also defaulted. A senior ZESA official told VOA that the majority of ministers have not yet settled their debts.

Critics said the cancellation of debts will cripple local authorities and negatively affect service delivery.

The Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers' Union has indicated that it will seek audience with Chombo to press him to reverse his call for debt cancellations.

But Chombo said there is no going back on the decision, adding it is the right thing to do to help the struggling masses.

Water Resources Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo accused Chombo of trying to implement populist policies without consultation.

Chimanimani resident Noxzet Chuma told VOA in his view move is merely a populist action by Zanu PF and will not serve the country in the long term.

Combined Harare Residents Association chairman Simbarashe Moyo also dismissed Chombo's directive as a Zanu PF scheme meant to empower its inner circle.

Outgoing Bulawayo mayor Patrick Thaba Moyo said he meet Mr. Chombo on Thursday who stressed that the council has to implement the directive as soon as possible.

Moyo proposed that the government should in turn pay council liabilities like taxes and related issues when residents debts are written off.