By Upenyu Chaota
MASVINGO—The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) top the debtors list of the city council here with the former owing over $4 million while the latter has an outstanding bill of close to $12 million and the city fathers have run out of options to force the security forces and law enforcement agencies to pay.
The city council has extended an olive branch to all defaulters to come and make payment plans with the local authority but very few have come forward.
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) is third on the list with a debt of slightly above $2 million.
Combining all the three government institutions’ debt, it outweighs the debt owed by residents from all the high density suburbs whose debt is slightly above $7 million.
City mayor Collen Maboke said the unwillingness of institutions to come forward and make payment plans to settle their debts is worrying and has crippled council operations.
“The city is rated one of the best in the country in terms of service delivery and it has been possible because residents and institutions honoured their debts. Now the situation has changed and the government departments are not paying.
“Their debts are ballooning and I am sure by now the figures are up high. We have mooted unleashing debt collectors on all defaulters but we thought leniency would be nice but very few have come forward.
“The army owe the council in excess of $11 838 487, 89 while the police have an excess of $4 165 157, 83 and the prisons $2 433 596, 90. All the ratepayers owe the city council close to $70 million,” said Maboke.
Local government minister July Moyo said all ratepayers should approach their local authorities and make payment plans to their debts or risk having debt collectors on their door steps.
“We say let there be dialogue between ratepayers and the local authorities. If you have a huge debt, come make a payment plan on how you will settle your debt.
“It is within the local authority’s right to engage debt collectors but we do not want to get there,” said Moyo.
The army, police and prisons enjoy uninterrupted services which they do not pay for while the residents who pay receive rationed services.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance spokesperson Godfrey Mtimba said the city council should disconnect services to those heavy defaulters and prioritise those who pay.
“Residents pay their bills and they get rationed services while those who do not pay enjoy uninterrupted services. This is unfair because poor residents are the ones who are being disadvantaged because their money is being used to service the defaulters.
“If residents do not pay, they are disconnected but these government institutions seem to be invincible and the council does not know how to deal with them,” said Mtimba.