Zimbabwe: Council Hikes Rates

Harare City Council has raised property rates at least 16-fold, quadrupled water charges, raised sewer charges up to 3-fold, but kept clinic consultation fees at 2019 levels in its approved 2020 budget.

Residents need to brace for extraordinary sums in their next bill as the local authority is backdating rates and service charges to January 1, 2020.

According to the newly approved 2020 city budget, council has also doubled rents for properties it leases.

Even in high-density suburbs, including Tafara and Mabvuku, where residents pay the lowest rates, property tax rates are up to $56.

In low density suburbs, where property taxes are charged on the value of land have also increased. Rates in suburbs like Borrowdale will jump to $1 051 while an average Mount Pleasant bill rises to $845.

Water charges for households have increased by 400 percent. In high density suburbs, the first five cubic metres of water are now $20 a cubic metre up from $5, so the basic 5 000 litres, the minimum an average family needs for a safe and secure healthy life is now $100.

The next five cubic metres will cost $24 a cubic metre, the next 10 cubic metres $27 a cubic metre and everything above 20 cubic metres $35 a cubic metre.

Charges are higher in low-density suburbs where the first five cubic metres are now $25 a cubic metre, the next five cubic metres will cost $29 a cubic metre, the next 10 cubic metres $33 a cubic metre and everything above 20 cubic metres will cost $41 a cubic metre.

Water charges for industrial and commercial users have risen almost five times to $20 a cubic metre.

Sewer charges have increased to $41 a toilet in high-density areas and $91 a toilet in low-density areas.

While the city plans to use cost-recovery models to fund most services, the health sector remains an exception.

Consultation fees remain the same, but a few treatment services have risen, including cost of ultra sound scan which is now $122.50, up from $35. A caesarean birth procedure has more than tripled to $1 837.

Hiring a fire engine including the crew is now $1 350 an hour, up from $450.

Burial charges for adults in Area A+ graves including Warren Hills and Greendale cemetery are now $2 084 up from $391. For area A it is now 1 045, up from $196, while in Area B it is $800, up from $150.

The business community has also not been spared with shop licences trading fees per month doubling to $701 up from $374.

Harare spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said the 2020 budget was now effective.

“We are now implementing the budget and we are going to be charging it since January 1,” he said.

Presenting the city’s 2020 $4,6 billion budget last year, Finance and Development Committee chairperson councillor Luckson Mukunguma said the budget formulation process took into account the prevailing economic conditions.

Clr Mukunguma said the budget sought to fulfil council’s 2019 to 2025 goals, particularly to provide potable water and prevent environmental pollution through effective waste management as well as the rehabilitation of roads infrastructure.

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) spokesperson Mr Reuben Akili said the budget is a product of a serious flawed process and can be challenged in a competent court of law.

“CHRA rejects the budget on two fronts that it did not comply with legal provisions governing budgeting in the Urban Council Act which calls on the city council to avail the budget for public inspection, and the section which calls on council to advertise the proposed tariffs in two issues of a newspaper and give residents that opportunity to object view the budget and present objections if they have any.

“The budget is not pro-poor as it proposes that high density residents subsidise industry,” he said.

Harare Residents Trust director, Mr Precious Shumba said the rates increases are mere figures cooked up by bureaucrats.

“The debt owed by ratepayers, industry and Government departments will balloon with no hope of ever recovering it. Yet despite this knowledge of ballooning debt by council’s debtors, they still go on to make outrageous rates proposals which most ratepayers have failed to pay,” he said.

Community Water Alliance director Mr Hardlife Mudzingwa said apart from the fact that the budget process was flouted, it was sub-economic on water tariffs charges.

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