MASVINGO – Masvingo residents woke up to unprecedented price hikes triggered by the city’s decision to increase rates by an average 560%.
The hikes which came into effect this week have caused an outcry in the city with residents shocked out of their wits by their current month’s refuse, water and sewer charges which surpass what they paid for in the last five months put together.
Masvingo City spokesperson, Ashleigh Jinjika confirmed the increases and told The Mirror that they were based on water consumption and cost recovery budget.
The hikes have caused price increases of many services and commodities in the city from rentals, groceries, goods sold by vendors at flea markets as everyone passes the cost to the customer.
Water tariffs for example shot from RTGS$26 per cubic metre in 2020 for the first 18 cubic metres to RTGS$108 per cubic metre for domestic uses for the first quarter of 2021.
What irks residents most is that water bills are as high as RTGS$8 000 when they received the water for a few hours twice a week. Refuse collection charges have also multiplied when the council goes for weeks without collecting garbage.
The hikes immediately saw landlords and estate agents hiking rentals by more than 100% with rent for small offices in the CBD shooting from US$170 to US$300.
Tenants in the CBD have since received invoices showing 100% rental increases on Monday.
Estate agents representatives who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Mirror that their hikes were triggered by the rates effected by the City Council.
“We are now sitting on huge rates that have swallowed all our earnings. We must pay the owners of the buildings and in order to do that we have to pass on the costs to the tenants.
“The hikes brought by the council are unsustainable considering that the economy is not doing well and the majority of residents work in the informal sector where they generated no income in the last two months because of the lockdown.
“The timing of the increases is a disaster.
“It is an understatement to say that the City fathers acted in a fashion that is very insensitive to the daily struggles of the ordinary residents,” said one of the estate agents.
Rentals for a room in the high density suburb have shot from an average US$20 to US$40 as landlords also pass on the costs to tenants.
Prosper Tiringindi, the secretary general of Masvingo Residents Trust said one of the reasons for the phenomenal rise is that the city council is pegging the US$ against the local currency at 1:143. This, he said, is a misnomer considering that the official rate is 1:83.
“The City Council must climb down from this mess otherwise there will be a wave of rates boycotts. Even the Government has called on local authorities to use the 1:90 rate,” said Tiringindi.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Association (MURRA) spokesperson Godfrey Mutimba, said his organisation has written a letter to the town clerk over the matter and added that unless reversed, his organisation was going to take the case to High Court.
Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo were futile.
“Council is being insensitive to the predicament of its ratepayers. I received a water bill of RTGS$4 500 from RTGS$950 the previous month. The issue simply is I can’t afford that” said Hardwick Mugota of Pangolin.https://masvingomirror.com