The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) on March 30, 2021 handed a petition to the City of Harare demanding a review of the 2021 rates, which most residents cannot afford to pay every month.
Harare Residents’ Trust
The acting mayor, ward 9 councillor Musarurwa Stewart Mutizwa, said they would handle the petition through their council sys-tem, promising to implement the most ideal of the recommendations by the residents.
Mutizwa said that service delivery will im-prove if the key stakeholders, including rate-payers, worked together with their council.He highlighted the challenges that the City of Harare is facing and bemoaned the lack of viability of their strategic business units.
If the strategic business units had per-formed according to plan, the burden on rate-payers would have been significantly reduced.The HRT petition, signed by 5 500 ratepayers, expresses the anger among residents over the unsustainably high rates being charged by the City of Harare.
Residents are now supposed to pay on aver-age of US$40 if converted from the Zimbabwe dollar on the official auction rate.This amount goes up to around US$7-US$100 for the ratepayers living in the low-density ar-eas.
From a human rights perspective, these rates being charged by the City of Harare are unsustainable, unjustified and this further weakens the capacity of the ratepayers to es-cape socio-economic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 and high unemployment levels.
In his submission to the mayor, Precious Shumba, the HRT director, said the rates had increased the burden on ratepayers because the incomes had not changed since last year, and most of the ratepayers are unemployed.
Mutizwa said without a government subsidy on most of their services, they are mostly rely-ing on ratepayers.Another challenge is that the former Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) has now been converted to being devolution funds yet there is no clarity on the amount due to each local authority.
The PSIP is usually the government’s medi-um-term strategic investment tool for the de-velopment of the country.
Local government experts say it is a budg-eting and strategic planning tool employed by the government, to translate its priorities and plans into tangible programmes and projects.It, therefore, demonstrates that the devolu-tion funds cannot be relied on to anticipate the nature of projects that the City of Harare can undertake, until the funds are availed.
Mutizwa said only 16% was coming to the City of Harare from City Parking.It was established to support the roads pro-jects of the council.This is despite the fact that the City Parking is considered 100%-owned by the City of Hara-re.
The HRT had submitted that the City Park-ing should be fully under the direct control of the City of Harare.Harare Quarry was established to support Harare’s roads repairs and maintenance, even upgrades, but it was not performing to expec-tations.
Without any revenues coming in from the council’s businesses, the burden fell on rate-payers.Commenting on the other strategic business units being run under the auspices of the Sun-shine Holdings, Mutizwa said the businesses had not worked as mandated, thus their impact was insignificant to the functioning of the City of Harare.
The butchery unit had not thrived despite the council owning some cattle under Harare Water.
The HRT recognises the importance of cit-izen involvement in council’s decision-mak-ing and the petition is a part of a broader pro-cess to have the council and ratepayers agree-ing on the best way to sustain council opera-tions without exerting too much pressure on the ratepayers.