BCC owed US$51m in unpaid rates

By Community Podium

Bulawayo Mayor, David Coltart, has disclosed that the local authority is facing financial challenges due to a staggering US$51 million debt owed by ratepayers.

This substantial debt poses obstacles for the city council in providing essential services effectively.

In an interview with the publication, Mayor Coltart acknowledged the pressing need for addressing various issues, including fixing tower lights, roads, and sewerages. However, the council’s efforts are hampered by the significant amount of money owed by ratepayers.

“Developments are inevitably slow, we have got a lot of work to do. The city is in a state of crisis as we are owed US$51 million by ratepayers,” Coltart stated. He highlighted the severe water shortages, malfunctioning sewerage plants, potholed roads, and low staff morale due to salary payments in RTGS. These challenges underscore the immense problems faced by the city council. Residents account for US$31 million of the total debt, while the government and businesses owe US$20 million in arrears. The issue of tower lights is a priority for the city council, and a program is underway to address the situation.

“We have got a program to try and improve the tower lights. We are working with one of the self-owned companies who will maintain the lights. We will do whatever we can within our budget constraints,” said Coltart.

He urged residents to report malfunctioning tower lights, particularly those in busy streets and business centres, to the town clerk, Christopher Dube.

Mayor Coltart emphasised the importance of ratepayers fulfilling their obligations to avoid disconnection from water services.

“We are speaking at residents’ meetings about the importance of paying rates. We have raised the issue with the government, asking their departments to pay. We are also reaching out to businesses to get them to pay. We also have a raft of measures designed to cut services where we can do so,” Coltart explained.

However, he clarified that essential services such as schools and hospitals would be exempt from disconnections.

In a recent development, the Bulawayo City Council withdrew its earlier statement announcing that only debit cards bearing the name of the rates/water account holder would be accepted at payment points, effective January 22nd, 2024. The public notice was retracted after consultation with Mayor Coltart, acknowledging its unintended consequences.

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