BCC warns residents over unpaid bills

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has urged residents to engage with the local authority and negotiate payment plans if they encounter difficulties settling their bills, aiming to prevent the costly legal process of property attachment.

Reports indicate that water supplies to over 2 000 properties in the city were disconnected, and legal proceedings were initiated for 650 households to recover a total of US$45.8 million owed by defaulters.

In Lobengula, 622 households were referred to the legal section for court proceedings to recover debts.

During a residents’ meeting organized by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) at Njube Hall, attended by representatives from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and BCC, BCC Legal Officer Dickson Moyo explained that property attachment is the last resort employed by the council to recover debts.

“Council is not in the business of taking people’s property. If you see your property being taken from you due to debt, it is a measure of last resort, meaning all efforts will have been made and failed, leading to the attachment of property. Every month, there is a reminder to residents, which is a statement showing the consumption for the month and the amount you are supposed to pay.

This acts as a constant reminder. The water bill states at the bottom the amount due for the particular month, which is a way to remind residents whether their debt is increasing or decreasing. We do this so residents can liaise with our offices if they are facing any challenges or don’t understand their bills,” he said.

Moyo expressed concern that many residents neglect their bills until legal action becomes necessary.

He added that there are also 24-hour notices followed by water disconnection.

“Property is not attached before there is a water disconnection. You will realize that after all these processes, we then have the summons process, which comes from the clerk of courts through the messenger of court. This is now the process of handing over to the legal section.

“If the legal section receives a list of houses owing this much, we then issue summons, which we take to the clerk of court for processing. At this stage, the defendant is given seven days to respond. The seven days allow you to interact with the City Council and the Clerk of Court to negotiate a payment plan. We have an open-door policy and engage with residents because the litigation process is very expensive,” he said.

However, Moyo lamented residents’ lack of response to summons, leading to default judgments against them.

He also clarified that the council does not directly sell residents’ property; instead, it is sold through a public auction conducted by the messenger of court.

“It is a bidding process, so depending on the highest bidder and the amount offered, your property may be sold at a lesser price. You may end up owing again and see them coming back to take another property. So, the moment you see yourself struggling with a bill, immediately approach the council to interrupt the legal process. Once the goods have been sold at a public auction, there is no reverse,” said Moyo.

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