Councillors in Bulawayo have blocked a proposal by the council management to resume water disconnections as a way of forcing residents to settle their bills.
The local authority is owed RTGS$184m in unpaid rates by residents, a situation the council management described as scary and unsustainable.
According to the latest finance and development committee meeting, the city`s finance director Kimpton Ndimande proposed the reintroduction of water disconnections as a debt recovery strategy.
He also called for legal processes against those owing council be allowed to proceed to its conclusion (action judgements) and the Draft Council’s Credit policy be adopted and implemented.
However, the proposal was fiercely rejected by the city fathers who urged the council management to come up with other means to recover money owed by ratepayers.
“Councillor Felix Mhaka suggested that Council should consider other options of collecting money than disconnecting water,” read part of the report.
“It was not the right time to disconnect supplies considering the harsh economic situation. Council should understand the position of residents as people have a right to access water. Residents should be encouraged to pay their bills even in small amounts to reduce their debts.”
Councillor Mzana Dube suggested instead of disconnecting water, residents should be served with final notices urging them to settle their debts.
Councillor Tawanda Ruzive observed that some residents were reluctant to clear their debt while others were struggling to make their payments.
He suggested that policy is formulated to guide councillors on how to deal with such issues.
Councillor Mlandu Ncube was of the view that the credit policy should be put on hold and the local authority should resort to issuing of financial demands.
He said that the Council should try other avenues of collecting money.
The Chamber Secretary Sikhangele Zhou advised on the need to balance the needs of the organisation against those of the residents.
“Everyone should contribute to the development of the City. The reality was that revenue has to be collected in order to provide efficient service delivery,” she said.
“Some defaulters had been served with judgments, however in the majority of the cases, they do not respond.
“It was not futile to institute judgment without the prospect of executing. People have taken advantage of this lapse and know that even if they were issued with summons/ judgment they would never be executed. Council had incurred expenses by not executing.”
Most local authorities are still reeling from the 2013 directive by the then local government minister Ignatius Chombo ordering councils to write off the debt owed by residents.