Gweru residents fret over council rates hike

Gweru residents have rebuked the Gweru City Council for hiking tariffs without consulting them, saying the timing is inappropriate as there is no economic activity due to the national lockdown.

Most businesses across the country, save for those that provide essential services, came to a standstill on March 31 following the declaration of a national lockdown by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a bid to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Gweru Residents` Forum (GRF) director, Charles Mazorodze, told CITE in an interview that the new tariffs will see residents now paying ZWL$500 per month from ZWL$100 while vendors who rent market places will now pay about ZWL$800 for a space of two meters by one meter.

Mazorodze said the issue of increasing tariffs had been deliberated upon in full council meetings, with Gweru councillors imploring the local authority to consider the economic challenges faced by residents.

“Our councillors told the council management that people cannot afford the amounts they had suggested. We are surprised that they just went on to implement the charges, completely disregarding the input of the people,” Mazorodze said.

“This increase is premised on no scientific basis or analysis on how the city council reached these figures without taking into consideration the socio-economic capacities of the residents.”

Mazorodze said in the past three years, City of Gweru has not managed to collect 45 percent of the budgeted income, a clear indication that residents are unable to pay the current exorbitant rates due to high levels of unemployment and dwindling household incomes.

“GCC should take into consideration the poor and the marginalised. This deliberate ambushing of residents is amid a health crisis which is not only unfair but grossly dishonest as everyone is grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

GRF director urged GCC to revert to the March 25, 2020 tariffs, saying the council should strike a balance between the service delivery needs of the city and the economic capacities of the city they are supposed to serve.

“The council should at least fully utilise current quarry claims under the preview of GCC to generate income towards service provision and improve road rehabilitation among other public services,” he said.

He reiterated that the local authority should always engage residents before making drastic decisions that have a direct bearing on the livelihoods of the communities.

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