Residents in this community have always been on the record for raising concerns with council over the archaic billing system, unaffordability of council rates and lack of community service while council was billing them.
It is astonishing that after engaging the City Treasury Department, based at Rowan Martin Offices, on the issue of debts that residents are drowned in, there are reports that officials from the messengers’ court have started attaching properties from households in Mabvuku.
The Town Clerk of Harare City council, Tendai Mahachi, mayor Muchadeyi Masunda and the city treasurer, Misheck Mubvumbi, have stated that it is false that council is attaching residents’ properties over outstanding debts.
However, from information received by the HRT, Masunda and the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Sesel Zvidzai, visited some households which were reported to have lost properties to some debt collectors last week. The findings of this team have not been clearly publicised.
Concurrently, there is also an organisation named Welfare Trust going around in the communities claiming that if residents pay US$20 to them outside the US$1 as membership fees at the District Offices and other council premises, the organisation will be able to negotiate slashing of their debts.
Residents of Harare are urged to desist from becoming part of such arrangements and instead resist attachment of properties by council.
The Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, Ignatius Chombo, has also remained silent on this issue instead of taking lead to adress the problem.
an urgent response from his office is required as well. If council is not attaching properties, then criminals are robbing residents in the communities.
It then becomes necessary to deploy municipal police officers in the identified communities to deal with this situation.
What is also surprising and may serve as testimony to the fact that council is attaching residents’ properties, is that debt collectors are visiting specific households which have council debts.
So if they are not being sent by council, how could they be so accurate?
Residents losing property to council
Information received by the HRT on February 20 this year from the Deputy Mayor of Harare, councillor Emmanuel Chiroto (Ward 42 Hatcliffe), also revealed that the City Treasury Department had attached residents’ properties in some suburbs.
He said that officials from the credit control section at Cleveland House had sent messengers of court to attach properties over outstanding debts without the approval of the City Treasurer. He said an order had been given that the properties be returned, but there has been no compliance to this effect.
The HRT also visited three households on February 26 following reports that residents had their properties attached. HRT officers realised that the community was gripped with fear.
After clarifying the purpose of the visit, residents felt they could confide in the HRT officers and indicated that debt collectors were patrolling the community on a daily basis, telling residents with outstanding debts that they would lose their properties soon.
A visit to Mabvuku District Office on February 22, where interviews with officers were held, revealed that residents had their properties attached due to default judgements in court.
This is in conflict with what the City Treasury management and council management officials had initially said.
On February 17, the HRT team discovered the following at the following households:
l At Number 43 Mazari Street Mabvuku, residents had an outstanding debt of US$1 606,63. They lost a four-piece black lounge suit and an upright Defy refrigerator.
l at number 16 Kurudzi Mabvuku, where there is a debt of US$724, they lost four kitchen chairs, one table, one Phillips television set, a DVD player, three piece kitchen unit and a Defy fridge upright.
l at another house at which the resident preferred to be anonymous, there is a debt of US$1 001 and they lost an upright fridge, a Philips television set, DVD player, radio, a microwave and sofas.
Simbarashe Majamanda is a HRT membership officer
Residents must settle bills: Gwindi
Lesley Gwindi, Harare City public relations manager, said reports that the council was attaching houses for non-payment of bills were not new.
“We have said people should pay and they continue defaulting. How do they expect us to be able to provide service if they are not paying? How do they propose to settle the bills?” said Gwindi.
“There is nothing like a free lunch, there is a cost to everything, people should settle their bills”.
“All this talk about lack of service in Mabvuku is a lie. We prioritise Mabvuku and I am with the councillor at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and he is not complaining”.