THE Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is disturbed by the position that has been taken by the City of Harare to issue letters of final demand to residents who have not paid their bills.
The move has been met with massive opposition from residents who feel that the council does not have any justification to demand money from residents when little efforts are being made to improve service delivery in Harare. Moreover, residents also feel that the City of Harare should have made consultations with residents first to find out why they were failing to honour their bills rather than threatening them with legal action.
Residents have voiced concern on the state of service delivery as opposed to the amounts of money which they are required to pay. It defies logic for council to make threats to residents when the council itself is failing to improve service delivery with the money that residents have been paying in rates so far. Some residents in the northern suburbs of the city pointed out that they have paid their bills faithfully to the council in spite of the fact that they have not been getting any municipal services. City roads continue to be littered with deep potholes; most shopping centres (especially in high density areas) are surrounded with piles of uncollected refuse; recreational and sanitary facilities have not been maintained and they have become unusable. Shopping centres like Areno (Kuwadzana), Kamunhu and Makwavarara (Mabvuku), Makomva (Glen View) and Budiriro 2 have become an eyesore due to the piles of garbage that have been there for months.
Moreover, residents have also argued that the money that is being demanded by the City of Harare is beyond affordability. Most residents earn an average of US$100 a month and yet the City of Harare demands as much as US$88 for rates while some water bills are within the range of US$35-US$60. These bills outweigh the average monthly income that Harare residents get. Furthermore, there are also electricity, telephone and other bills that residents have to pay. Some residents who live in the Avenues area in the city centre have also complained about the exorbitant bills that they are getting from the City of Harare. Some of the bills for blocks of flats in the city centre have amounted to as much as US$10 000 (for water). These residents have complained that water supplies have been extremely erratic and they do not understand why the City of Harare is charging so much money for non-existent services. In law, when two parties enter into a contract, if one party does not deliver their end of the bargain then the contract is null and void. What case does the City of Harare have against residents to whom they have not kept their end of the bargain?
The current situation has created a lot of mistrust between residents and the City of Harare. Residents are withholding their money because they feel that Council is not being fair by demanding money for non-existent services. Furthermore, the fact that the Council is awarding its personnel hefty salaries at the expense of quality municipal service delivery also leaves a lot to be desired. There is a need for the City of Harare to engage in dialogue with residents and hear their side of the story so that good working relations between Council and residents can be created.
Combined Harare Residents Association