The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is set to resume water disconnections as a way of forcing residents who owe the local authority in unpaid bills to settle their debt.
Last month councillors blocked the local authority from resuming water disconnections, urging the council management to come up with other means to recover money owed by ratepayers.
The local authority is owed over RTGS$184m in unpaid rates by residents, a situation the council management described as scary and unsustainable.
According to the latest Finance and Development Committee report, it was resolved that water disconnections and attachment of debtor`s property be reinstated as the local authority is under pressure to improve its revenue base.
The city`s finance director Kimpton Ndimande reported there was a need for resuscitation of water disconnections so as to make residents settle their debt as there was a danger that if the debt accumulates the council will fail to deliver quality services.
“It will be recalled that Council (3 April 2019) resolved not to accede to the resumption of water disconnections for defaulting debtors. The decision has adversely affected cash inflows and incapacitated Council’s ability to legally collect money from debtors.
“There was, therefore, need for a serious rethink on Council’s previous decision not to disconnect water for non-payment of rates and charges,” said Ndimande.
Ndimande said that the council was facing serious challenges because residents had adopted a bad culture of not paying rates.
“Some residents had paid rates once or twice a year and others had never bothered themselves to make an attempt. Council had allowed residents to make payment plans and those who had done so never honoured their promises.
“Residents who were up to date with their rates had complained that Council was turning a blind eye to the defaulters. They had also adopted the culture of not paying their due,” said Ndimande.
Concurring, the Town Clerk Christophe Dube pointed out that cutting off water supplies was in terms of the city’s by-laws.
“The previous resolution was in conflict with the Urban Councils Act. Council was being guided by the by-laws which empowered the Council to disconnect water supplies. Council had the duty to use all lawful means to collect its debts as it could not afford to offer free services hence the need for residents to pay what was due to Council,” said Dube.
The legal tools to recover from outstanding debts include summons and water disconnections, which is allowed by the Urban Councils Act and the Statutory instrument 390 of 1980 (Sewerage, drainage and water by-laws) section 16.
Councillor Tawanda Ruzive appreciated that the economic situation was not favourable, however, he said residents should pay for the services rendered to them.
Councillor Mlandu Ncube, however, said disconnecting water was not the best option.
“Council should embark on other means of collecting revenue and should revisit the pre-paid meters and parking system project as other alternatives.”
Councillors also concurred on the issue of the prepaid meters and parking system which would bring revenue to Council as there was a need to urgently pursue alternative revenue streams.