BY JUDITH SIBANDA
Victoria Falls Municipality says it is owed ZWL$21 million in unpaid bills and has vowed not to renew shop licences for commercial entities in arrears.
The Town Clerk Ronnie Dube in an interview said residents have been resisting to pay their bills and the local authority has been forced to use the legal route to recoup its monies without much success.
“We are owed a total figure of 21 million by residents, hotels and commercial business owners,” he revealed.
“What we have observed is that people are taking council for granted because whenever we call for a supplementary budget to raise rates, there is always resistance yet when other utility suppliers like Zesa hike prizes there is compliance and support.”
Dube added: “Having noted that, we have taken a decision to be ruthless to those people who owe us…we will not be renewing any licences that have expired until their home and business rates have been cleared.”
Dube added that those willing to apply for licences will be vetted using the same criteria.
“We will also be vetting those who intend to apply for licences, and if in our records we find that they owe us or have been a problem in paying, we will not offer them any paperwork,” said Dube.
“Victoria Falls is operating under a chocked budget like any other towns, but the advantage of this town is that many people have direct or indirect access to foreign currency. People complain when there is an interruption of water supply or delayed refuse collection yet the in addition to their refusal to pay for bills we are also operating under the same difficulty.”
Asked if there was the likelihood of supplementary budget during the year, Dube responded: “I cannot promise that there won’t be any supplementary budget this year, but if people pay what they owe we will not top it up. We are working in a budget of less than 30% which is extremely difficult yet under normal operations our float must range around 60% so we will have a stiffer approach to those that are refusing to pay.”
The council last year had proposed to charge licence fees, rates and penalties in foreign currency, a move that was rejected by the government and residents.