Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kazonga asks tenants in C/belt council houses to pay rates

Kazonga asks tenants in C/belt council houses to pay rates
By Namatama Mundia
Sat 15 May 2010, 04:20 CAT

LOCAL government minister Dr Eustarckio Kazonga yesterday directed the tenants in all council houses on the Copperbelt to continue paying rentals and rates.

Dr Kazonga’s statement follows complaints from town clerks on the Copperbelt that they were having difficulties in collecting rentals and rates following President Rupiah Banda’s pronouncements on the matter.

Town clerks from Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Luanshya and Mufulira told the parliamentary committee on local governance, housing and chiefs affairs that they were experiencing problems to collect rates and rentals because occupants were refusing to pay following President Banda’s recent pronouncements.

During a press briefing late last month, President Banda said he could not understand the criteria used by councils to evaluate the properties which were bought under the empowerment policy in 1996.

President Banda said, “one wonders whether this is not a calculated political move by the PF councils to create a wedge between the people and their government. Some house owners who failed to pay the increased rates have even had their household goods such as TV sets, furniture and other such items confiscated by councils, depriving them of their comfort.

This is unacceptable and I advise all those citizens affected to report such incidents so that we can deal with these people,” President Banda said.
But Dr Kazonga urged tenants on the Copperbelt to pay rates and rentals to the councils.

“The people have to pay the rates that are there, but we are saying that let’s put a human face to these demands and we can also take the route of trying to negotiate,” he said in an interview. “The councils can sit with ratepayers and agree on the mode of payment.”

Dr Kazonga said residents by law were expected to pay their rates.

“In accordance with the law, they are supposed to pay but it’s these modalities that we need to look at because some people were trying to misuse the legal provisions.

The law is not there to punish, it’s there to assist what people are supposed to do, that is it’s not meant to punish the ratepayer,” Dr Kazonga said. “When the rates are within manageable levels, even compliance indirectly also improves, so if you put in a big figure, to collect that big figure you will have problems.”

He said ratepayers and councils should discuss the modalities of paying these rates.

“There are some companies that have discussed with councils, Sun International Hotel discussed with Livingstone council, they demanded that the rates were on a higher side and they negotiated with the council,” Dr Kazonga said.

He said the issue of tenants demanding for refunds from councils was a non-issue.

However, Dr Kazonga said President Banda did not order tenants to stop paying rates.
And Dr Kazonga said the ratings Act required the local authorities to prepare valuations rolls.

“And the same law empowers property owners an opportunity to check and inspect the valuation rolls before they are finalised. Where they feel the values indicated are not appropriate or manageable,” he said.

“They can submit their objections to the Ratings Valuation Tribunal and based on the submission, the tribunal makes a decision. In case a ratepayer or property owner is not satisfied with the decision, he or she is free to appeal to the High Court.”

Dr Kazonga said President Banda directed him to devise and supervise a professionally acceptable, efficient and orderly way of evaluating property and setting land rates so that correct things are done within the legal framework.

He said he was now implementing the President’s directive.

“I will ensure that during the preparation of the valuation roll, those property owners must get involved and they must also make comments or objections of the draft to the tribunal,” he said.

“I will ensure that the ratings valuations tribunal listens to the objections if any submitted by property owners,” he said.

Recently, former president Frederick Chiluba told tenants at Ndola’s Itawa Flats that they should give president Banda a vote in next year’s elections.

Chiluba who was accompanied by his wife Regina, former MMD provincial chairman Terence Findlay, Ndola District MMD vice publicity secretary Alex Mubanga popularly known as Shimpundu pankoloko, told the tenants that if they voted for the UPND-PF Pact leaders, they would never see development in the nation.

On February 14, 2010 in Ndola, President Banda accused PF-UPND–controlled councils of stealing billions of kwacha without providing services.

“I have listened to your cries, you tenants of Itawa Flats and the Chinese Housing Complex in Ndola, especially that the council has been stealing billions of kwacha without providing services. Why charge you more when you stay in houses that are cracking thus putting your lives in danger?” asked President Banda.

“But they will not steal anymore since they are not in government and soon we shall be moving to Kitwe because similar incidents are happening and we shall thoroughly audit them to find out how much they collect as rates from the mines without doing roads.”

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