Sunday, September 01, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Councils begin US$2bln debt write-off
03/08/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

SOME urban and rural councils have begun implementing a directive by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo to write off debts accrued by residents between February 2009 and June 2013.

The directive was one of Zanu PF’s campaign platforms in the latter days of the July 31 election race which the party and its leader President Robert Mugabe appear to have won.

Masvingo residents began to see the debt forgiveness in their July bills, while in the Midlands – Gweru City Council, Redcliff and Runde Rural District Councils say they are now auditing their books to effect the relief.

Zanu PF’s rivals said cancelling the debts – including rentals, unit tax, development levy, refuse charges, water and sewer fees – would cripple the councils. But Zanu PF said the debt relief was necessary because councils were charging flat fees for poor service, and pointing to opaque accounting in converting debts from Zimbabwe dollars in 2009 to United States dollars.

Masvingo began cancelling debts last month, and Midlands local authorities appear to be ready to follow suite.

Gweru town clerk Daniel Matawu said: “We have withdrawn all the names of defaulters we had handed over to our debt collectors in an attempt to recover our money that residents owed us in unpaid water bills and rates.

“We will then look into our books to try and do the calculations. Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we could effect this.”

Elizabeth Gwatipedza, the Redcliff town clerk said in a separate interview: “We will begin work to implement that directive starting from August 5.”

Zanu PF’s predicted landslide victory in the elections will only add pressure on other councils to begin cancelling debts which Chombo said could be as much as US$2 billion combined.

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