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$200 Million Debt Haunts Harare Council

The Harare City Ccouncil says it now has a $200 million debt following a government directive in July this year to write off outstanding ratepayers’ bills.

According to the Combined Harare Residents Association, City Council Treasurer, Misheck Mubvumbi, told a residents’ meeting Monday that although residents and business’ bills were currently at zero, many people have stopped paying their rates following the implementation of the government directive.

Mubvumbi said as of September 30th, the council had accumulated an estimated $200 million debt as it can no longer meet its own financial obligations.

Harare city councilors said they are unable to comment until a meeting Thursday expected to follow up on the debt Harare has accumulated since the implementation of the state directive to write-off debts backdating to 2009.

Precious Shumba, coordinator of the Harare Residents Trust, said there now confusion over payment of rates in the city.
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In July, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo ordered urban and rural and councils to write-off all rates and bills owed by residents from February 2009 to June 2013.

Mr. Chombo said the debt forgiveness, amounting to about $2 billion, would enable residents to start on a new slate.

The minister said local authorities were losing a lot of money by employing debt collectors to pursue the debts.

Mr. Chombo urged councils to have a reliable follow-up operation in future to deal with such issues.