Heather Charema in Chegutu
The business community here has rejected a supplementary budget approved by Chegutu Municipality, saying the hikes in licences and rates would stifle businesses growth.
The municipality, which is owed at least $20 million by residents, increased rates and licence fees by 300 percent and 600 percent respectively.
During the first five months of the year, the local authority collected $3 416 587 against a budgeted income of $4 398 558.
The council is working with a budget of $10 556 538 for the whole of this year.
In a letter addressed to Chegutu Municipality Town Clerk Mr Alex Mandigo, Chegutu Development Association said the council’s resolution was unacceptable.
“The Chegutu Business Development Association is objecting to the implementation of (2019) Supplementary Budget, which our municipality is saying they are implementing, especially as it relates to liquor shop licence fees which they hiked by 600 percent from $150 to $900 for a bottle store licence,” said the association.
“We are against such a resolution by our councillors and council management. On rates, we are objecting to any percentages as our town has no industry, it has vendors only. They are saying they are increasing their rates by more than 150 percent which is too high for our poor community.
“We don’t see the logic in increasing rates and licence fees when Government has re-introduced the Zimbabwean dollar and prices are coming down. The council here in Chegutu is giving flimsy excuses of hyperinflation of Zim dollar against the banned USD foreign currency.
“We wonder why they are rating our currency against foreign currency. It seems they are against the Government’s new monetary policy. As residents and business persons, we are not happy with how Chegutu Municipality is treating us.”
The association said its members were given one night’s notice to attend a meeting on the Supplementary Budget, yet the Urban Councils Act, Chapter 29: 5 (Section 314) says the minister may reverse, suspend, rescind resolutions, decisions etc of councils that includes discretional powers, which council has already imposed on ratepayers.
“We hope as Chegutu residents in business that the minister will not approve the supplementary budget which was improperly done by Chegutu Municipality,” said the association. “To us as residents that discretional power is subject to the minister’s approval as any other increase.”
Speaking during the business community meeting on Tuesday, Chegutu Business Development Association Patron Mr Tofireyi Rukawo urged residents and business people to work together with the council management.
“This increment is stifling business growth in Chegutu and it will only pull us down,” he said. “Considering that there is poor service delivery by council, the increment is just too much for businesses to grow.”
Chegutu Municipality finance director Mr Tongai Mandude said the supplementary budget was necessary for improved service delivery.
“Because of the changes that have happened in the macro-economic environment, goods and services which are used by council for service delivery like fuel, water chemicals, services for critical pieces of equipment have gone up with an average of 500 percent,” he said.
“However, this increase on the expenditure side is not supported by an increase in the corresponding revenue side to correspond it. This mismatch between income and expenditure resulted in the need for a supplementary budget to finance the gap.
“Council is also aware of the inflationary pressures created by increases of its services, hence council has proposed an average increase of about 150 percent in its monthly billables,” he said.