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Residents' property attached over council debts

by Staff reporter
19 May 2022 at 06:35hrs | Views
AT least 10 residents from Senga suburb had their household property attached by the Messenger of Court at the instigation of Gweru City Council (GCC) in a bid to force ratepayers to settle their bills.

The residents had property in the form of beds, fridges, beds and wardrobes seized.
GCC public relations officer Ms Vimbai Chingwaramusee confirmed the development saying the council is taking the litigation route to force debtors to settle their bills.

She said ratepayers now owe the local authority $1,7 billion.

As of December 31, 2021, the debt stood at $1,1billion.

"Yes, I can confirm that 10 residents had their property attached last week as the local authority engages in litigation to force them to settle their debts. It is an ongoing process and we encourage residents to settle their bills or approach council for payment plans," said Ms Chingwaramusee.

She said litigation was not a one-day process and residents were given ample time to approach town house for payment plans.

Ms Chingwaramusee said no one was caught unawares when the Messenger of Court went about attaching property.

"Attaching property is the last action that council takes. No one can be caught unawares because before going to the courts, council sends letters of debt notification to the clients. Upon receiving those letters normally clients take action and come to make payment plans. If nothing is done, then council takes the legal route. As a council we have an open-door policy hence we encourage residents to make payment plans to avoid the legal route," she  said.

Ms Chingwaramusee said if ratepayers met their obligations, the local authority was going to offset its creditors and would be left with more revenue to improve service delivery.

The local authority, she said, owes its creditors over $300 million.

"We continue issuing final demand letters and for those who do not respond, we take the legal route culminating in the issuance of summons," said Ms Chingwaramusee.

Last month the local authority imposed a five percent interest on defaulting ratepayers as the debtors' bill continues to balloon.

All the 18 councillors representing 18 wards making up the city of Gweru unanimously voted for the imposition of the interest rate.

"A full council which has councillors from 18 wards passed a resolution to introduce 5 percent interest per annum on all debtors. Yes, this is the prescribed interest rate on debts on arrears. It cushions council a bit in this hyperinflation environment. The local authority will penalise defaulters while rewarding paid-up ratepayers," said the acting town clerk Mr Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe after the meeting.

He said defaulting clients from three months going up will be affected by the five percent interest rate.

Recently, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts said local authorities should be allowed to charge companies involved in exporting or selling products in foreign currency.

Chairperson of the committee Mr Brian Dube said that would help local authorities improve service delivery.

Rate payers, especially in urban areas, have to cope with persistent water shortages, uncollected litter, pothole infested roads and sanitation problems as municipalities struggle to provide basic services mainly due to unavailability of foreign currency.

Fuel, spare parts and other consumables needed by local authorities to improve service delivery are sold in foreign currency especially the United States dollars yet local authorities are charging rates and services in local currency.

Source - The Chronicle