Stakeholders in Bulawayo have accused the local authority of being autocratic after it announced its proposed 2019 second supplementary budget and the 2020 budget despite objections from ratepayers.
Residents and other key stakeholders had objected the $507 million second supplementary budget which will see rates increase by 300% with effect from next month.
The local authority also proposed a $2.8 billion 2020 national budget which will see rates increase by a further 416%.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) communications officer Kelebone Khabo, said council must respect the views of residents.
Khabo said the proposed rates are unrealistic in the current prevailing economic situation.
“The city council is not considering the plight of residents. They need to realise that some of these people are the elderly who now live off pension funds which can barely get them by. Other residents also have other expenses such as food, rentals and fees for their children.
”Recently, there were budget consultative meetings across all suburbs but such action only proves that none of the residents views were adhered to. Most of these council people are just making decisions from a point of privilege. Some are exempted from paying bills by virtue of being employees while some want to ensure they get enough salaries. We cannot have a city run like that,” he said.
Khabo said the city council needs to explore other revenue generating avenues which will lessen the burden on citizens.
He urged that the council be more transparent in the manner in which funds are used.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) director Michael Ndiweni, said the proposed budget is a slap in the face of informal traders.
“People are already struggling as it is and increasing rates by four folds is too much to take in. This reflects how poor the government of Zimbabwe is at resuscitating the economy. These challenges are not only limited to Bulawayo but are nationwide.
“As BVTA we however implore the local authority to talk to people and hear their views rather than impose these rates on them. Vendors are already paying ZW$30 a month and the proposed October rates will see them paying as much as $90. To enable them to meet these, can they at least be allowed to make payment plans,” said Ndiweni.
Ward 9 councillor Donaldson Mabuto said the proposed budget will not be affordable for most residents especially those in the high density suburbs.
Cllr Mabuto said the council management must be competent enough to learn from other countries on alternative ways of generating revenue than to milk residents.
Ward 4 Councillor Silas Chigora noted that although the increase is too much, the local authority still has to deliver quality services.
“We need to appreciate the fact that the economy is not conducive for everyone. It needs to be fixed. Our mandate is to provide services and to do so we need money. Either way we need to strike a balance between service delivery and residents paying their rates,” he said.
Cllr Chigora said residents in his ward will be paying between ZW$200 and ZW$300 a month which will be hard as most of them are pensioners with limited income.
“Residents will not manage; their housing stands are huge in terms of size and they will be paying around $300. We need to take into consideration that salaries have not been increased. Some of these residents are vendors and such a remarkable increase would deeply affect them,” said the councillor.