Redcliff Council in stand repossession exercise

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Simbarashe Fenton Mushonga

Redcliff Town Council (RTC) has commenced the stand repossession process with the intention of recovering unpaid dues, this publication can reveal.

With more than 800 stands up for grab in Rutendo high density, Renin, Torwood Infill, Church stands, Service and Light industry, Engelbrecht medium, and Engelbrecht Low density respectively, the council has given stand owners an ultimatum, to pay up their dues within a month. In a notice given by RTC Clerk Gilson Chakauuya, residents were given 30 days to settle their outstanding balances.

“Notice hereby given in terms of the Urban Council Act 29.19 that the municipality of Redcliff intends to repossess the listed stands for non-payment of monthly installments. Beneficiaries are therefore given thirty days from the date of this notice to pay all the outstanding amounts, failure to which council shall repossess the stands without further notice,” read the notice.

Speaking to this publication, one of the residents who identified himself as Chimombe, (not his real name) said that although the development is genuine, and meant to develop the area while enabling the council to recover revenue the time frame given is not enough.

“This move is a bold one, and it should have been done long back. If the council collects the revenue owed, it is empowered to improve service delivery but we have to be honest with each other here, the timing is not good. In fact, one month is not enough if we look at how bad our economy is, people are struggling to put food on the table, so it becomes a disaster if one is informed that his/her stand is about to be repossessed, the council should consider that. There is a need for a grace period on this issue,” said Chimombe.

“The way this issue is being handled is morally wrong if I may say, the council should come up with timely SMART strategies to collect revenue which create a win-win situation not to swiftly try to cash in on this issue. It is unrealistic, no one can raise around usd$1 753 in 30 days if you do the math using the amount of expected revenue and number of stands. Economically this is a failure because people will never buy the property and then deliberately withdraw from paying their dues. More will suffer from depression and trauma if they lose their stands,” said Baba Maka one of the stand owners.

Social Justice Activist Tendai Ruben Mbofana however said the failure by stand owners to pay up is a consequence of circumstances that calls for a compromise situation to solve the issue at hand.

“From a humanitarian point of view each, and every society has laws which help maintain order and to make the system functional but laws do not create themselves they are created by people, there must be a humanitarian touch and face on the laws as we are beings. We look at the Urban Council Act 29.15 referenced by the council, it has the power and choice of whether to enforce it or not. Some of these stands have gone on for years and years even decades in areas, why have they not been enforcing the law?

“After ZISCO (Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company) collapsed in 2010, it meant that 90% of the people in Redcliff were left with no source of income, highly unemployed only to resort to hand to mouth, kungwavha-ngwavha, that problem has not been solved. So the Redcliff, ZISCO issue is not an island at all, the country as a whole for the past two decades has been in dire economic crisis only to get a reprieve during the multi-currency era but as long as people are not fully and formally employed it means nothing.

“All this means is people are not willingly violating laws or their responsibilities, if one buys a stand they can never sit idle on it, people have dreams to construct homes which becomes heritage to their families, saying that they deliberately refrain from paying, is a total missing the point. So the council should stop sending notices, letters, and ultimatums threatening people. They should sit down with people, discuss and come up with solutions because the council needs that revenue to sustain its operations, especially in this era where prices are skyrocketing.” said Mbofana.

He further stressed that every individual had the right to shelter and that property ownership, when a situation in question arises where the council will be exercising its right to get what it is owed according to law, there is a need for compromise by all the parties involved.

“There is a need to understand the plight of people, no need to hide behind the law, a compromise-compromise situation means no one is a loser at the end of the day,” he said.

Information obtained by this publication however revealed that non-payment of rates by stand owners in question has hampered Redcliff council from getting over ZW$561 million, a hefty amount which could be channeled towards the augmenting debt and service provision.

Redcliff mayor, Clayton Masiyatsva said the Redcliff council intended to decisively recover revenue in order to service stands in areas under development such as Renin, to bolster the initiative. He further said that a task force has been set up to recover all outstanding revenue owed to the council.

“Repossession of stands is done in line with Urban Councils Act Chapter 29.15. We notified the affected individuals and we also managed to have the list of stands in the press so that everyone will not complain about having been short-changed on our intention to repossess the stands.

“Beneficiaries as well have failed to pay the stand purchases for the past 36 months and the council is also giving them 30 days to clear the outstanding balances, we are doing this so that we are able to service some of the stands, and we have also come up with a task force to collect revenue on all outstanding rates,” Mayor Masiyatsva said.

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