WATER charges, rates and services are set to triple in the next two months as Harare City Council seeks an over-$60 billion supplementary budget to prevent imminent coll
apse of the capital’s infrastructure, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.
If approved, the supplementary budget would be $20 billion more than the council’s 2003 annual budget presented in October 2002.
The supplementary budget would effectively mean that there would be a swingeing increase of between 200% and 300% for all services provided by the city council. The move is likely to be resisted by already overburdened ratepayers.
Highly placed sources at Town House said the need for a supplementary budget is inevitable as the economic situation continues to deteriorate.
“Our budget of $40 billion has been completely eroded,” a councillor who sits on the finance committee said this week. “The biggest portion of our $40 billion budget presented last year has been swallowed by water chemicals. Continued weakening of the dollar and the recent fuel increases made the supplementary budget inevitable.”
Current revenues from rates and services have been earmarked for capital expenditure and maintenance of roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure.
Government no longer provides annual subventions to council and has refused to grant borrowing powers.
Acting Harare mayor, Councillor Christopher Mushonga, confirmed that a provisional supplementary budget had already been drawn up. Mushonga is standing in for suspended executive mayor Elias Mudzuri.
The supplementary budget is likely to provide ammunition to Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo in his bid to remove Mudzuri.
“We have already prepared a tentative provisional supplementary budget for stakeholders’ consideration in the consultative meetings that will begin this weekend,” Mushonga said.
“The supplementary budget figures could be subject to changes as councillors consult residents.
“We would like to have the supplementary budget implemented when we effect our second-year increases in July,” he said.
Mushonga said the earlier the budget is implemented the quicker the council would improve its services to ratepayers. He said council was not expecting resistance from ratepayers as they would be consulted before finalisation of the working figures.
Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) chairman Mike Davis said council should consider alternatives to raising the money other than passing on the burden to the already choked ratepayer.
“There is no way council can triple rates,” Davis said. “We would urge council to consider other ways such as borrowing from the money market.”
This comes as the battle to control Town House intensified in the High Court this week with Mudzuri filing opposing papers to thwart Chombo’s bid to bar him from carrying out council duties.
In his opposing papers Mudzuri denied that his suspension was in line with the law.
“I deny that the applicant (Chombo) has lawfully suspended me,” Mudzuri said. “The applicant can only suspend me upon a proved and objective suspicion on reasonable grounds that I am guilty of conduct that renders me unsuitable as mayor,” he said.
CHRA has also filed papers opposing Chombo’s suspension of the mayor. Davis said his organisation has filed legal papers in case Mudzuri’s challenge does not bring the desired results.