BULAWAYO residents have reacted angrily to threats by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to forge ahead with rates and tariff increases due to runaway inflation despite resistance from ratepayers.
The BCC has been holding consultative meetings with residents and other stakeholders seeking a review of its 2019 budget from ZWL$212 million to ZWL$475 million to give room for a 50% increase in rates and tariffs.
Council argues that the budget has been eroded by inflation; a situation it argues has severely impacted on its capacity to offer efficient services.
In a letter to council dated April 25, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), however, reacted angrily to the “command decision” to increase rates despite resistance from ratepayers.
“In the past, BCC has been a leader in service delivery excellence and consultation, but such ‘command’ decision-making is a serious pushback on democracy and a return to authoritarian rule,” BPRA coordinator Emmanuel Ndlovu said.
“If council is to go forward and disregard what the residents have said, then the consultation process for supplementary budget that was recently carried out by BCC was misleading and a waste of scarce resources.”
Mayor Solomon Mguni told Southern Eye last week that there is no going back on rates and tariff increase, arguing the local authority “will not stand by and watch Bulawayo” die as runaway inflation knocks down its service delivery capacity.
Ndlovu, however, urged council to “think outside the box” and not rely on rates as the only source of income.
“BPRA insists that such a decision to increase tariffs will require the buy-in of residents who are the ratepayers. In light of the above, it has become obvious that BCC should begin the process of thinking outside the box and not over-rely on rates as the only source of revenue.
“In exploring other revenue schemes outside ratepayers, BCC should maximise on council assets and farms. Council must think of repossessing some of its farms and make them productive. Council must also think of the Bulawayo Thermal Power Station and repossess it to produce electricity and bill residents,” he said.