By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, September 13, 2016 – City residents are struggling to keep up with their rate payments amid revelations they owe the council in excess of $133 million as at July this year.
According to the latest council report, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is owed the huge amount which is about 75% of its 2015 budget by residents in 29 wards.
The council’s 2015 budget is $158 million.
The biggest culprits are wards 1 and 6 which owe the city council $24 million and $18 million, respectively.
Others are wards 3, 4, 7, and 13 which owe $9 million, $12 million, $10 million and $7 million, respectively.
The least owing wards are 14 and 28 which owe the city $1,4 million and $1,8 million in unpaid rates.
Residents have, however, attributed their failure to honour their debts to low industrial activity in the city which has resulted in massive job cuts as companies continue to shut down.
Close to 100 companies reportedly closed shop in Bulawayo, which used to be the hub of the country’s industry due to myriad of problems, chief among them viability challenges.
Over 20 000 workers were reportedly thrown out of employment after the companies closed and were struggling to pay their utility bills to service providers such as BCC.
However, as at July 31, council owed statutory bodies such as National Social Security Authority, Municipal Provident Fund and the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, TelOne and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority as well as workers about $124 million.
Of this figure, workers are owed $7,2 million.
Residents who spoke to RadioVOP said they were willing to pay their rates to the local authority but were being held back by lack of resources.
“Some of us are not working. I used to work for the National Railways of Zimbabwe and was always up to date with my payments. However, following the collapse of the company I am now struggling to pay my rates,” said one Sibangilizwe Jubane, a city resident.
Residents said due to their failure to meet their obligations to the council, they always have had to ensure repeated water supply cuts in their homes.