Zwnews Chief Correspondent

Harare residents have expressed dismay over the City of Harare (CoH)’s rates discount plan which they claim could have been orchestrated on bad faith, amid conflicting positions on those who would have defaulted on payments.

In a notification titled ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ issued by Acting Finance Director Stanley Ndemera, CoH recently offered ratepayers a 50 per cent reprieve owing to increased un-serviced debts by ratepayers paid up and in arrears as well as rented properties for the period 23 July 2018 to 31 October 2018.

Residents say they had welcomed this attractive offer by the CoH, however, they are now suspecting some elements of deception on the part of the local authority, after it emerged that the 50 per cent advertised was in deed 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) says it has received complaints over the matter, and say there was also a specific case in which a ratepayer from Mabelreign who owed the City of Harare $164.00 visited their District Office, intending to pay 50 per cent, that is $82.00 in order to liquidate her debt.

But, upon arrival at the District Office, was told by the revenue officer that the discounted amount was $54.00 instead of $82.00, creating a shortfall of $28.

HRT says to add to the confusion, there have been some conflicting signals emanating from Rowan Martin Building where rates are paid, and Town House, the city’s administration centre.

The residents trust, says council spokesperson Michael Chideme was quoted on 27 August 2018 in a local daily, (The Herald) saying at the expiry of the offer period CoH will hand over those with outstanding debts to debt collectors. While, at the same time information from Rowan Martin Building says those whose debts will be unpaid at the end of the discount period risk having the amount discounted being restored on their debts.

“We therefore urge CoH to immediately clarify its position regarding debt management and on what they are exactly offering, to avoid creating panic and fear among ratepayers, says HRT.

Apparently, speculation is rife that the rates discount could have been designed to increase revenue inflows in order to pay outstanding salaries of five- six months for most council employees. While some residents believe that the rates discount is aimed at promoting payments by ratepayers, which could be a noble initiative if done transparently.