SERVICE delivery and other operations in Masvingo are set to suffer significantly, following the ministry of local government’s directive to all council authorities to write-off outstanding bills dating back 2009, senior council officials said.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
Local Government minister, Ignatius Chombo ordered council authorities to write-off all debts in what analysts said was a populist move by Zanu PF that would have serious ramifications on service delivery.
Senior council officials said the directive would have a hard knock on Masvingo City Council (MCC), which is already grappling with a US$3,5 million debt. Most of its fleet was attached early this year to cover the debt.
In December last year, the council’s fleet including refuse trucks laden with refuse, ambulances and office equipment were attached over the money it owes its workers in a salary dispute that dates back to 2008.
The seizures followed a Labour Court ruling compelling council to pay its workers salary arrears to the tune of US$3,5 million.
The award was registered at the High Court, prompting the deputy sheriff to execute the order.
In January the deputy sheriff also towed away the Mayoral Benz, a Mazda Eagle Twin cab and several pick-up trucks that belonged to directors.
The cars are gathering dust after the council managed to block their auctioning in court.
The case is still pending.
“With all these financial problems, how do you expect council to write-off residents’ debts and be able to function well?” said one official.
While most residents welcomed the directive, others said it was going to further cripple service delivery in the country’s first urban settlement.
“While it is noble, we really need to consider the precarious position that our local authority is in, given that it had its cars attached,” said Natasha Moyo, a local resident.
But MCC caretaker committee chairman, district administrator James Mazvidza said they were going to implement the government directive.
“About the issue of attachments, that is a matter still pending at the courts, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Mazvidza said.
He however urged residents to settle their new bills following the writing off of their outstanding ones.
“We had already printed out our bills when the circular came, but residents should ignore the previous bills. They should only consider those for July and August,” said Mazvidza. “We are however appealing to residents to settle their new bills, considering that they have been given a reprieve on their outstanding bills.”
The attachments by the messenger of court have left service delivery and normal council business in limbo as all emergency services, including refuse collection, have been crippled.
The council has since resorted to hiring tractors and trucks for refuse collection.