Minister approves objected Masvingo budget – Tell Zimbabwe

File picture: Minister July Moyo

 …residents declare ‘war’ on city
fathers

Clayton Shereni

Local
government Minister, July Moyo recently approved the City of Masvingo’s 2021
budget although residents had raised objections against the proposed budget,
TellZim News has learnt.

According
to the dictates of the Urban Councils Act, at least 30 objections from
residents are enough to shelf a budget and order a review before sailing
through.

Urban
Councils Act Chapter 29:15 Section 219 provides for a provision where if
objections are lodged “by thirty or more persons who are voters or who are
users of the service,” council must reconsider the charges or tariffs.

However,
Moyo seems to have ignored all these objections and went on to approve the
city’s budget, a move which has irked residents who feel the rates being sent
to them are beyond their reach and do not represent what they said during
budget consultations.

Recently
residents received ‘exorbitant’ water bills for February which have been
revised upwards by over 500 percent.

Masvingo
United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) Information Officer, Godfrey
Mtimba expressed disappointment in the latest development and said the local
authority should consider reducing the rates with immediate effect or expect
retaliation from residents.

“We
are extremely concerned, our position is that residents vehemently rejected the
hiking by over 500% and  even went further
to write objection  letters after the
proposed budget was advertised in the press, 
in line with the dictates  of the
Urban councils Act, but all those efforts were disregarded by the council for
the reasons best known to them.

“We
will however, through massive consultations from our broad membership seek way
forward, but I foresee a protracted battle. These rates must fall, residents
cannot afford them, they are atrociously high at a time their source of income
has not been increased by a similar rate,” said Mtimba.

Masvingo
mayor Collen Maboke confirmed that the local authority received the objections
and forwarded them to the minister for consideration together with the proposed
budget.

“About
30 objections were raised and in terms of the Urban Councils Act we have to
look at those objections and respond to them one by one so we then sent the
objections together with the budget to the minister. The minister had the
prerogative to approve the budget since we had done our own part,” said Maboke.

Residents
who were averaging $500 in water bills recently received an average of $2 500
for the month of February which translates to over 500 percent.

The
2021 approved budget will see each high density property paying an average of
$2 630.56, commercial $8 466.22 and low density $2 360.56.

Many
ratepayers who are informal have lamented this hike which they feel is beyond
their reach considering business and income has been heavily affected by the
Covid-19 induced lockdown.

Masvingo
Service Delivery Residents and Ratepayers Association (Masdrra) secretary
general, Moses Mavhusa said his organization was disappointed with the city
fathers whom they will engage to reduce the tariffs.

“The
Town Clerk confirmed of an effected increase on services but he said he wasn’t
aware of the actual percentage. We are very much concerned and disappointed
because households are receiving water once or twice a week while some don’t
get a drop for the whole month. As an organization we are going to engage the
city fathers because there is no justification for these tariff increases,”
said Mavhusa.

Masvingo
Residents Forum (MRF) secretary general, Prosper Tiringindi said the local
authority had gone against the wish of residents and that they should brace for
a confrontation.

“Residents
disregarded this budget since its formation but the local authority took us for
fools and went on to effect a budget which we objected. If discussion fails, us
as residents we will start war, we will boycott paying those bills,” said
Tiringindi.

However,
Acting Town Clerk Engineer Edward Mukaratirwa said council considered all
objections which they went on to forward to the minister.

“Objections
were considered and council addressed those and forwarded them to the minister
for consideration as well. Before the approval, the minimum bill for high
density suburb properties was $572 for water consumption upto 5 cubic metres,
refuse, sewage and supplementary charges,” said Mukaratirwa.

Efforts
to get a comment from Minister July Moyo were futile as his mobile was not
available up until the time of going to print. 

Many
cities and towns in the country are facing a resistance from residents over
hiked 2021 budgets that residents claim to have objected during budget
consultations.

Gweru
City Council on Monday (March 1) conducted an engagement meeting with residents
to try and find common ground over differences in the 2021 approved budget for
the local authority.

Mutare recently
reduced rates after a strong #RatesMustFall campaign by residents who felt
council was charging too much for its services. 



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