GOVERNMENT’S recent directive compelling local authorities to write off residents’ utility debts has set Harare’s two residents’ associations on a warpath with one group hailing the move as long overdue, while the other described it as a cheap political gimmick and unsustainable in the long run.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Last month, outgoing Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo ordered all local authorities throughout the country to scrap off residents’ utility rates, saying debts were an unnecessary burden to the residents. Chombo issued the directive at the height of the campaign period, prompting the MDC formations to dismiss it as a Zanu PF campaign gimmick. Debating the issue during a Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe)-organised public meeting on Thursday, Harare Residents’ Trust director Precious Shumba hailed Chombo’s directive saying it was “long overdue”.
“We will not apologise for celebrating debt cancellation because it was long overdue. The residents are prepared to go to Town House for a demonstration if the council doesn’t deal with the billing system. It does not mean that government set a wrong precedent,” said Shumba.
However, Combined Harare Residents’ Association chairperson Simbarashe Moyo described the move as an unsustainable Zanu PF populist stance, adding the scrapping of bills set a wrong precedent. “Debts must not be cancelled in the manner they were cancelled. The idea can set a wrong precedent to us as residents because if I start believing that I cannot pay my bills for five years, then government can scrap them off just like that. If we believe that we can keep your debt and it’s written off, we collapse these local authorities,” said Moyo.