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Outcry over Masvingo bills

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Outcry over Masvingo bills

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ELLEN MLAMBO
MIRROR REPORTER

MASVINGO – Masvingo residents have expressed shock at council bills that they have received over the last two months which are sometimes three times more than what they used to pay.
An expert in local authority told The Mirror that the increases in the bills for high density suburbs is because of the zone-based method of calculating property tax which was introduced in the current budget.
A bill is divided into two parts which are the rates and the service charges. The rates are tax on property while service charges are payments for water consumed, sewer and refuse collection.
The expert said properties are taxed according to size with properties that are bigger in area paying more. Meanwhile industrial properties are taxed through valuation which includes the land size and the improvements on the land.
The expert also said the new bills match what obtains in the region but was quick to accept that those in the region had far better economies and higher salaries than Zimbabwe.
Residents inundated The Mirror with calls that their bills have in some cases trebled while the majority said their bills have doubled.
Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) spokesperson, Godfrey Mtimba said the issue is not about what the bills are but what is within the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans.
“Pensioners earn US$20 a month and yet their bills are around US$70. Civil servants including teachers earn US$200 and of that the City Council takes away US$70. Masvingo is a city of vendors scrounging for a living and definitely these bills are out of their world.
“This is ridiculous. It is ridiculous for this economy. We have engaged council but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” said Mtimba
.A former Masvingo City Councilor told The Mirror that his bill jumped from around US$35 to more than US$100.
“Whatever argument council has over the bills, the reality is that they are unaffordable. The majority are not going to pay them,” said the former councilor who declined to be named.
Masvingo Mayor, Aleck Tabe conceded to The Mirror that the issue of council bills is topical in Masvingo.
He said some of the high bills were due to water bills. He urged residents to check their water pipes to see if there are no leaks because the piping system is old. He also said some water meters are dysfunctional forcing council to use estimates.
He said council recently introduced property tax which also contributed to the rise in bills.
Masvingo Residents Forum team leader, Shingirai Nyahwa said the local authority needed to review the charges.
He said water is a right and cutting off water from a resident is a violation of a fundamental right.
He bemoaned the council’s service delivery and said it did not match the charges that the local authority is collecting.
He bemoaned the use of estimates in charging water.
“We have received a lot of complaints from residents disputing the bills. Council supplies water for a few hours a day but the water bills are exorbitant,” he added.
Caroline Phiri, a Target Kopje resident said her bill has jumped from US$30 a month to US$90 a month.

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