Unilateral Increase of Rates by City of Harare entrenches Autocratic Municipal Governance

The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) is concerned with the unilateral increase in rates by the City of Harare backdated to January 2020. Under the hyperinflationary context, the huge rates will soon be eroded, but the key principle of consulting the residents should never be compromised. Citizens should be valued as part of an inclusive decision-making approach by the City of Harare. Residents across the suburbs in Harare’s 46 wards have reported that their new rates have left them in shock and confusion. The City of Harare has hiked property rates (300%), water charges (between 292% and 310% for high density areas and low density areas respectively), bulk water charges (233%) and sewer charges (154%). Burial charges have been upped by an unprecedented 433% for all classes/ site (s) A, B and A+ and clinic consultation fees remained at 2019 levels.

Major rates were increased as follows; Non Residential Property- current ZWL$3.66 to ZWL$14.67, water- current ZWL$5.10 to ZWL$20.00, (High Density areas) and ZWL$6.10 to ZWL$25 (Low Density areas) for the first five megalitres of water, bulky water- ZWL$6.00 to ZWL$20.00 and sewerageZWL$16.76 to current ZWL$41 (High Density areas). One megalitre is equivalent to 1 000 litres of water or five- 200 litres drums of water. Burial charges for residents adults are now pegged at ZWL$800.00 from ZWL$150.00 (Area B), ZW$1 045.00 from ZWL$196 (Area A), ZWL$2 084.00 from ZWL$391.00 (Area A+). Clinic consultation fees have remained unchanged at previous 2019 rates of ZWL$20.00 and ZWL$10.00 for adults and children respectively.

The increase is coming at a time when residents are reeling from the drastic effects of Covid-19 pandemic. Economic activity is grounded. Most of the adversely affected ratepayers are residents without any form of livelihoods in terms of being gainfully employed. The informal sector is grounded with very little taking place. Their survival is based largely on vending which is not considered as essential services during this lockdown.

The HRT condemns this behaviour as it is devoid of empathy. The increase of between ZWL300 and WZL500.00 backdated to January 2020 depending on location has piled more misery on the already burdened ratepayer. The move is pushing more families into destitution as the debt keeps accumulating, without any hope of ever paying off what they owe to the council. When the ratepayers have unpaid debts, and the rates are increased, it is nearly impossible and unimaginable that the City of Harare would be able to meet their revenue collection targets. Most services are not being rendered, especially refuse collection, water and sanitation services and street lighting is none existent. Roads are not being maintained.

The HRT has been inundated with calls and messages from irate residents after receiving shocking rates bills last month. They are demanding an explanation as to the meaning and objectives of such a degrading and ill-advised move. Residents are asking how the City increases rates without soliciting for input from the ratepayers.

The HRT therefore encourages the City of Harare to take a pro-people approach. This includes processes of consultations and inclusivity. The City should be reminded that without the cooperation and support of residents there would not be a City to talk about. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the City to explore other areas of income generation like effective management of rentals from billboards’ advertising space, restoration of City Parking to the direct management by the City Treasury Department. Presently, the City Parking’s administration and governance is shrouded in controversy and secrecy bringing to the fore issues of accountability and transparency.

The HRT agrees with the residents’ views that they will only pay what they can afford, and will not be able to pay more than they have until there is an improvement in the council’s communication, billing system and accountability to the ratepayers. The socio-economic conditions are also a major constraint to the ratepayers who are equally suffering under the hyperinflationary environment. The City of Harare should desist from adopting a big-brother mentality and a top-down development approach.

Contact Details: programs@hrt.org.zw, hretrust79@gmail.com, 0772 869 294, 0772 380 927, 08677109781 and www.hrt.org.zw

Source: Harare Residents Trust