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Association calls for rates boycott

Grace Kombora

THE Combined Harare Residents Association has urged city residents to reject the massive budget increases unveiled by the Sekesai Makwavarara-led commission this week.

The commission announced a whopping $32,5 trillion budget for 2006 that will be financed through sharp increases in rates and charges at the beginning of the new year.

Harare residents’ representatives have accused the commission of failing to deliver services, which have resulted in the outbreak of diseases in high density suburbs as refuse goes for months on end uncollected and they have to endure perennial water cuts.

Mike Davies, chairperson of Combined Harare Residents Association said the budget was illegal as it was prepared by an illegal commission with no mandate from residents to do so.

“As a residents association we call on all residents not to pay their rates to the city council,” Davies said.

He said the city council and the Local Government had been the enemies of the residents especially during Operation Murambatsvina.

The budget means rates will be increased by at least 100% for basic services which council is failing to meet. In most residential areas refuse has not been collected since May when government launched its infamous Operation Murambatsvina that displaced at least 700 000 people and robbed thousands of others of their sources of livelihood. Hundreds of homes described as illegal structures were razed in a military-style blitz condemned worldwide for its brutality and the suffering it caused.

The capital’s infrastructure has all but collapsed, characterised by unavailability of water, raw sewerage flowing in the high-density residential streets, roads almost inaccessible because of potholes and decomposing refuse mountains at street corners posing risks of disease outbreaks.

Sewer fees, currently pegged at $165 000 for low residential, high residential areas and residential flats are to double to $330 000 with effect from January next year and then double again to $660 000 in July.

For commercial areas, the fees will rise from the existing $600 000 to $1 200 000 effective January and then double to $2 400 000 in July.

The tariffs for refuse collection for high residential areas will increase from the current $134 896 to $250 000 with effect from January and to $350 000 from July. In low residential areas the tariffs will rise from $157 447 to $300 000 effective January next year and to $420 000 six months later.

Uncollected garbage piling on street corners has become common in both high and low density areas and along sanitary lanes in the city centre.

Residents question whether the ballooning budget will be in tandem with the service delivery.

When water is available, most of it is lost through burst pipes, which remain unrepaired for months.

But council has never run out of excuses. Failure to collect garbage has invariably been blamed on the withdrawal of service by the three main contractors who cited the unavailability of fuel and low payments.

“The city is struggling to maintain a semblance of refuse collection given the scarcity of fuel, aggravated by an aged fleet of refuse compactors,” read the budget.

The costs of burial in the city’s cemeteries have increased sharply.

The burial of an adult in area “A” has risen from $750 000 to $8,5 million effective January next year. Burial charges will double to $17 million in July.

A resident child will be buried in area “A” for $4,2 million from January from the existing $375 000 and council proposes to increase the fee to $8,5 million in July.

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