By Open Parly
Caught in between a rock and a hard surface may be a true explanation for Zimbabwe city councils that are hell bent on recovering the bulk of the money they are owed by residents prior to the presidential elections in 2018.
In the past, such bills have been scrapped off by government leaving most councils broke and incapacitated yet with the mandate to provide a service. The debt write-off has been purely a campaign strategy by Zanu PF, one that may have worked for them but came along with some negatives.
Combined Harare Residents Trust (CHRA) Chief Executive Mfundo Mlilo says, “There is a culture that has been created that the government is coming to scrap the fees so it’s the problem of the government. They have created this crisis of expectation. Now the problem arises because I was paying my bills and then someone was not paying their bills, we were are all on par. So the person who was paying no longer pays now because they are anticipating the bills will be scrapped in 2018. We opposed this issue in 2013 because we knew the consequences it would create.”
Harare City Council is owed over 600 million and council acting Finance Director Tendai Kwenda recently said there are residents who have not bothered paying a single penny since debts were written off in 2013.
The council has handed over the debtors to Well Cash debt collectors who have issued letters of demand to residents. The move has been met with mixed feelings with some saying some part of the debt is not justified since some parts of Harare have not received any water in the past decade but council has not stopped billing them.
Despite mixed views on unleashing debt collectors on the ordinary person, Harare city council has expressed the move is yielding results as most debtors are making moves to clear their debts. The flip side of all this is that debt collectors are a further burden on the debtor who has to pay 10 percent more as the debt collecting company bills the debtor.
Harare residents have often blamed council’s shortcomings on the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which has a majority of councilors in the city. Yet Harare council and other councils fall under the ministry of Local government which is run by Zanu Pf.
While this is unraveling in Harare there are reports that Bulawayo city council is currently deliberating on handing over their debtors to the same debt collectors too.
Well Cash debt collectors have a robust portfolio of clients which include Parirenyatwa group of hospitals, United Bulawayo Hospital, Mpilo Hospital, Telone and many others. How all these organizations came under the company is a story for another day.