Kwekwe grapples with more than 70million debt for ZESA, ZINWA

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By Perseverance Javangwe

Kwekwe residents have been riled the proposed supplementary budget by the cash strapped council as the going gets more tough at tail end of 2020.

Residents who spoke during the consultative budget meetings in Kwekwe said that persisting economic crisis is making it difficult for them to pay their monthly bills hence the supplementary budget will be the last straw to break the Carmel’s’ back.

“From US$0.12 to US$0.30, combining all that amount totals US$9.00 for water only. We plead with you since 38% of the population are only able to pay the bill to be realistic because I see this figure dropping down as more and more people will find it impossible to pay their bills. We all want to pay bills but due to the high rate of unemployment our pockets are empty,” said ward 11 resident who identified himself as Shumba.

“So this means that we will have to fork out US$4.00 for refuse and sewer plus US$9.30 for water this will give us a total of about US13.00 per month. Many of us cannot afford that due to the high rate of unemployment in the country. It is better if you can reduce the US$2.00 for sewer and that of refuse to say, US$1.50, then reduce water tariffs from US$0.30 to US$0.20 which will give us a total of US$9.00 rather than the US$13.00 that you are proposing,” said another resident from ward 11.

“I’m a pensioner from ZISCO (Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company) which perished a while ago and I am speaking for myself as well as others like me. And life for us is can you please take this into consideration as you are raising taxes?,” said Mai Moyo, a resident from ward 14.

While praising Kwekwe for being exemplary in the provision f portable water, Emmanuel Muchuchu of ward 14 said,

“We thank you in that the water supply we have in Kwekwe is one of the safest water in the country, but the challenge is that many people cannot afford to pay. The majority of people here are pensioners and teachers,” he said.

This comes after Kwekwe City Council Finance Director Rejoice Maweni, argued in her presentation that the 2020 budget from January could no longer sustain the city up to the end of the year citing the prevailing inflationary rate . She said there was thus need to come up with a supplementary budget for the period of September to December.

“We need to come up with a supplementary budget so that we can be able to finish the year providing adequate service for the city. We have proposed that for water we charge US$0.30 per cubic meter from the US$0.12 we were previously charging. For refuse and sewer we charge US$2 respectively so that we can be able to purchase fuel every week and collect refuse consistently,” said Maweni.

According to budget performance report, as of 31 August 2020 ward 4 owes the council a total debt of $3 315 466, ward 6 owes $61 099 213, ward 10 owes $4 716 377, ward 11 owes $8 638 848, ward 13 owes $2 089 625, and ward 14 owes $4 537 098.

Meanwhile some residents advised the City Council to seek help from the government or even find willing sponsors other than coming back to the residents who are evidently struggling to pay the rates. However, Kwekwe Mayor Angeline Kasipo said that they had already reached out to the government and were advised on the route of a supplementary budget.

“The government is giving us devolution funds for capital projects. It expects us as council not to make profit but charge for what we provide (recovery cost). When we say US$0.30 per cubic meter there is no profit on that. They (government) say whoever want to use water should pay for the services so we cannot go back to the government and say help us. If we want to collect refuse we charge for that in order for us to provide the services on a weekly basis.

“We understand that things are difficult for everyone and this is also the same situation with us as city council, this is why we came to you. If we cannot afford to provide you with water we will be making life difficult for you. So if we say people cannot pay the tariffs then we won’t be able to supply water. The other option is if you say you cannot afford it then means we will have to adopt a system whereby we ration water supply and this will be a bit tougher for most of us because we will only be able to provide water say, twice a week for example. If we reduce that US$0.30 charge it will be difficult for us to supply water consistently. Things are also tough for us as City Council because we owe companies including ZESA and ZINWA a lot of money. We have already reached to the government and they have advised us on partaking in a supplementary budget,” said Kasipo.

Kwekwe town Clerk Lucia Mukandla weighed in by staying that, “We want to help each other with but you need to understand that we had budgeted for refuse collection was fuel only. We had budgeted in Zimbabwe dollars which was hit by inflation and most fuel stations are now charging in USD which became difficult for us to do our work. But we approached the commerce , mining industry and some companies came forth and helped us. I’m happy that there are people who love their city. We managed to gather 3million Zimbabwe dollars from well-wishers which helped us most during the lockdown.

“The supplementary budget now, is for the period from September to December. Yes we understand things are tough for everyone, but what can we do? You also need to understand that the town has become bigger through the years and service delivery has become demandable. Sustainable development will come if we work collectively as a team,” said Mkandla.

The economic situation in the country continues to worsen with residents finding it difficult to pay their monthly tariffs. Prices of goods and services keep surging while employees’ salaries remain stagnant, resulting in many residents accruing more debts to the city council.

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