Gweru City Council has come under fire as residents are demanding that the local authority must sell the new Toyota VX Land Cruiser bought for the office of the town clerk and channel the money towards service delivery.
The top of range car, which was commissioned last week, was set to be used by the former town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza before she got fired last year on gross incompetence and corruption charges.
Council also bought two Isuzu KB single cab trucks from Casas and Wackdrive at a price of US$26 200 and U$30 500 respectively.
Residents who engaged some city fathers in a residents-controlled WhatsApp group expressed concern over the state of service delivery in the city.
“It’s not fair for council to continue being operated like a tuck shop. Bills have been hiked to sponsor luxurious lifestyles of individuals in council. Your Worship (Mayor Josiah) Makombe, we want a listening council despite our different political thinking. It seems we have moved from being a city of progress to a retrogressive one,” said one resident.
Eve Mapurisa Nyikadzino, another resident, said council was supposed to prioritize service provision especially water which is a basic right.
“How can they buy such expensive vehicles yet they cannot provide water to their residents. Water is a basic right and we have been deprived for too long,” she said.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) director, Selipiwe Conerlia told TellZim News that they have always been against the purchasing of the vehicle.
“As residents representatives our position is very clear. We don’t want the new vehicle to be used as a pool car. Let that car be sold and be replaced by three utility vehicles that the city needs.
“We know that the car will end up being an exit package for some top official and that is not acceptable. We will therefore not rest; we will approach all relevant authorities including the Minister (of Local Government).
On his part, Makombe said all the three vehicles were going to be used for council duties
“It will not be fair for residents to be shortchanged by having the vehicles used for other jobs not set by council. I urge those in charge to put these vehicles to good use. The vehicles are meant to ensure the provision of service delivery
“The Isuzu trucks are part of the contractual obligation with these companies (Casus and Wackdrive) to service Mkoba 21 and Randolph suburbs. We hope our partnership will yield positive results for Gweru,” said Makombe.
Big debts owed by Government to the city fathers
In an informative report carried last week by CommunityTalk website, the City of Gweru has been struggling to meet service delivery costs due to money owed to the local authority by government departments, corporates/ institutions and residents.
Residents have often been threatened with legal action, disconnections and other debt recovery strategies though nothing has been said on big institutions that owe the local authority.
The media has also been awash with reports that the MDC led councils had failed to run cities under their jurisdiction following floods that hit residents in various parts of the country recently.
Amid clear indication of poor town planning added to visible evidence that stands were allocated in wet lands, the councils have been saying government often do not complement municipal work and as a result jeopardizes developmental efforts.
An investigation carried out by CommuTalk however established that a souring debt has been among other reasons a major impediment to service delivery efforts in the City of Progress.
CommuTalk talked to City of Gweru Public Relations officer, Vimbai Chingwaramusee who said the City is now owed up 270 million from unpaid debts.
“The debt has ballooned and council as at 31st December 2020 was being owed ZWD270, 235 005. 32,” she said.
She says this debt has greatly affected service delivery to a council that needs ZWD75 million per month for effective provision of services.
“Due to non-payment of bills, service delivery is greatly affected as we fail to pay for water treatment chemicals. We fail to repair our roads network, we fail to buy pipes for repairing water and sewerage bursts, we fail to buy adequate fuel for refuse collection, we fail to repair public lighting, we fail to maintain our motor fleet, we fail to pay statutory obligations like pensions…,” she said.
“So far, we are using moral persuasion by inviting debtors to come and make payment plans. Water disconnection for defaulters is also one of our debt recovery strategy but due to COVID-19 restrictions the exercise has been suspended.
“Issuance of summons and attachment of property, a route that is not popular with politicians and levying of interest on defaulters while awarding discounts to loyal payers are also other debt recovery mechanisms in place,” Chingwaramusee said as she gave available debt recovery strategies.
Chingwaramusee did not give response to a question that asked for juxtaposed amounts owed by institutions and residents respectively.
A further investigation carried out by CommuTalk however gathered that as at 31 December 2020, from where the amount owed was drawn, government departments and institutions were the City’s biggest single unit debtors with money owed by five government departments almost totaling that which is owed by 10 (+) biggest owing institutions.
The five government departments are owing ZWD16, 540, 748. 56 while other institutions besides government departments owe ZWD17, 002, 671. 37.
Ministry of Defense topped the debtor’s list owing ZWD8, 066, 073.55 with the Zimbabwe Military Academy and Air Force of Zimbabwe owing ZWD1, 167,908.41 and ZWD6, 898,165.14 respectively.
This is followed by the local authority’s parent Ministry which is the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing that owes ZWD4, 005,361.61.
Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Judicial Services Commission under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs owed ZWD3, 127, 686.61; ZWD1, 280, 486.39 and ZWD61, 140.25 respectively.
Topping the list on other big debtors besides government departments that owe big to council include the Midlands State University (MSU), ZimAlloys, PTC Penson Fund, Zimbabwe Electricity Pension Fund and Bata Shoe Company that owe the local authority ZWD3, 563, 656. 09; ZWD2, 234, 380. 77; ZWD2, 146, 451. 57; ZWD1, 167, 942. 66 and ZWD1, 446, 664. 54 respectively.
Also, in the top 10 big debtors besides government departments owing council are Midlands Hotel, ZimGlass, Post and Telecommunications, Go Beer Breweries and Vicar Apostle of the Vicar owing ZWD994, 771. 70; ZWD946, 759. 76; ZWD829, 961. 20; ZWD792, 381. 77 and ZWD694, 764. 25 respectively.
Anderson High School, Jin An Corporation and the Rural Electrification Agency are also other big names found in the organisations with arrears list owing ZWD646, 187. 19; ZWD511, 243.91 and ZWD511,243. 91 respectively.