Defaulting Gweru residents heaved a sigh of relief following the local authority’s decision to stop attaching their property for not settling bills.
This comes after Gweru Residents Ratepayers Association (GRRA) wrote a letter to the Town Clerk’s Office on the 24th of May 2022, referenced “attachment of resident’s property” it reads: “There is widespread concern among residents of Gweru that you have already begun to attach their properties to recover the debt owed to your local authority. We request that you provide residents a grace period” reads the letter.
Gweru City Council had taken drastic action against defaulting residents and scores of residents had their property attached by the Messenger of Court.
The local authority says it requires about $75 million every month to effectively deliver service to residents and institutions.
With residents’ debt ballooning to over $300 million from $240 million around January, some residents who owed council more than $70 000 had their property attached.
In an interview, Gweru mayor Councillor Hamutendi Kombayi said the local authority had decided against attaching defaulters’ property following an outcry from residents and their related associations.
He said council was impressed by the surge in the number of residents who were coming forward to make payment plans to clear their debts.
Cllr Kombayi said thousands of residents had their property attached after serious engagements with Cornilia Selipiwe and team.
“Yes, we have stopped henceforth attaching defaulting resident’s properties.
“We are a listening council and we are also considering the plight faced by the residents due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Cornilia Selipiwe and Team approached our offices and had a long and fruitful meeting that forced us to stop the attachments through a resolution by all 18 councillors,” he said.
Cllr Kombayi said the council is owed over $500 million, a development he said is affecting service delivery.
“I’m told we managed to recover some money following the legal action we took to entice them to settle their bills.
“Hard as it might have been, some came and settled while others made payment plans,” he said.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) Executive Director Cornilia Selipiwe commended council for stopping attachment of property.
“We are happy they are no longer attaching property, but this is coming a bit too late for others who had their property attached.
“Some will see their property going under the hammer as auction dates have been set,” he said.
Mr Selipiwe said the tariff hike is the reason why debts are ballooning, adding the council billing system is also allegedly in shambles hence the authenticity of the debts is always questionable.
“The relationship between residents and council will be further strained which is a disaster in terms of community development. They need to understand the worsening socio-economic environment in Zimbabwe is affecting everyone and everything,” he said.