Quality services or foreign currency? Residents challenge local authorities

Local authorities demanding payment of services in foreign currency should deliver quality services in order to encourage residents to pay.

Some councils have started billing residents in United States Dollars (USD) despite the government insisting that bills should be paid using the local Zimbabwean currency.

Contributing to a discussion on This Morning on Asakhe on the payment of council bills using foreign currency, participants said local authorities need to give confidence to ratepayers that their financial resources are put to good use.

“I feel council is not doing enough in terms of informing people, disseminating information around payment of bills and everything because we need an improved service coming from the council,” said a participant who identified himself as Mdluli.

Mdluli said local authorities also need to engage residents and educate them about the importance of paying bills. 

“When local authorities engage in dissemination of information, educating people, the advantage is of people paying their bills on time, it brings awareness to the residents,” he said. 

“At the end of the day whether USD or whatever currency in terms of payment, I think it becomes secondary, we need to look at the primary facets, the challenges that are facing local authorities and how best to deal with them. If it’s a human resource problem or it’s a problem of lack of accountability or it’s a problem of red taps, those are the issues that need to be first tackled because if we do not tackle those, even if we pay in USD, council will still inflate those bills at the end of the day ,” said Mdluli. 

Another participant, however, said there is a need for service delivery which gives value. 

“The thing is you don’t enhance service delivery with overpricing, you need to have a service delivery that gives value, value that actually is determined by the value of the currency, not by command,” he said. 

He said the action system used by the local authority is inflating the value of the local currency. 

“It’s like a dollar means nothing when you compare it to the bond. We can’t have the whole country whereby people are paid in Zimbabwean bond, yet they are expected to pay for service delivery with USD. Where do they get the money, how does that make sense at the end of the day, where are they getting the money to pay for those services.” 

In addition, Douglas Mandaza said there is a need to ask the Members of Parliament to raise the issue of the government paying their debts to local authorities. 

“Few city councils were mentioning that the government actually owes them a lot of money and it hasn’t been paid for a number of years, the schools, the government departments, if that money was actually paid to the city council, would be able to actually run some different services.” 

“We actually need that conversation going with our members of parliament, putting the government to task, especially Mthuli Ncube who is responsible for paying the city council those money, and being able to give what is due to the city council so the residents can have decent services,” said Mandaza. 

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