Individuals and businesses who owe money to the City Council will soon be paying back that money when they buy ZESA recharge tokens. According to a report by The Herald, Harare City Council is owed ZWL$1.9 billion and Chitungwiza is owed ZWL$150 million. That money has proven difficult to recover and local authorities are in the red because of it.
The proposed measure is a departure from the move to use debt collectors and Harare District Coordinator Tafadzwa Muguti said that local authorities need to think outside the box.
“I will be engaging Zesa, in particular ZETDC, because we now want to make bills which are owed by residents to be put on electricity bills. That is the only way councils will be able to collect their money. When one tops up electricity, they will then pay for what is owed to local authorities. I think this will start to help address a lot of backlogs of the money that councils are owed.”Tafadzwa Muguti, Harare Provincial Distric Coordinator
The idea here is since everyone needs electricity a percentage of the money they pay when recharging their meter will go towards any debts owed to the council.
A counter-argument to this was brought up by the acting director of Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents Association Brighton Kanyama. He said that the city councils should first look at the reasons why residents are not paying bills.
He brought forward the example that residents are buying water for up to ZWL$10.00 a bucket but the council has is still billing them for water that it isn’t delivering. Some residents can’t even remember the last time they got running water in their homes. This proposal would be grossly unfair because the council will be collecting money for a service they haven’t delivered.
Collecting council debts through ZESA token purchases is a novel idea. The only problem is that the money they intend to collect should be for services that were delivered. Without the Councils evaluating themselves and their books first this would be daylight robbery.
Before this proposal is set in motion, residents’ accounts of service delivery need to weighed and taken care of before any money is deducted from electricity purchases.