Chiwenga’s rates boycott recipe for disaster

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VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga’s weekend call for Harare residents to stop paying rates to force the MDC-T-dominated local authority to improve service delivery cannot go unchallenged as it sets a bad precedent.

Besides, Chiwenga’s call goes against the letter and spirit of good governance. What is evident is that the opposition councillors have little room to manoeuvre given that Zanu PF controls central government.

Regrettably, Chiwenga’s call at a Zanu PF campaign rally in Hatcliffe on Sunday is a sad reminder of how our top politicians, particularly from the ruling party, often times throw caution to the wind and make obsequious declarations just to ingratiate themselves with the cheering electorate without considering the long-term impact of such moves.

It is a replay of the 2013 move by ex-President Robert Mugabe in which all 92 local authorities were forced to expunge all existing debt on the eve of a general election, but whose ripple effects are still being felt to this day.

The failure by Harare and other councils to provide services has its roots in this political naïveté that only served Zanu PF interests. With President Emmerson Mnangagwa promising to do things differently, is it not ironic that his most power lieutenant is singing from a different hymn book. Signs of a disconnect at the top? Highly likely! Chiwenga should be warned that economics and governance have never borrowed from “barrack democracy” type orders. It just does not work!

It boggles the mind just how Chiwenga who then was Acting President, ordered Harare City Council to stop forthwith the collection of rates from areas they have failed to collect refuse, supply water and provide sewer reticulation services.

According to Chiwenga, council should only start collecting rates after they have improved their services. We wonder how Chiwenga expects the local authority to improve its services without the necessary resources to oil its operations.

Already, the council is saddled with a $600 million debt in unpaid rates and government has no money to help out. It’s now clear that another moment of madness is in the offing to expose the usual failure of quality leadership at the top echelons of our political architecture. Chiwenga should hold his head in shame.

It’s not in doubt that Chiwenga’s rather cheek-in-tongue or tongue-out-of-cheek rant is bound to grind most councils’ operations to a halt, as residents in other cities are likely to stop paying rates anticipating another Zanu PF debt write-off ahead of the July 30 elections.

In the absence of a solid and robust strategy of how that financial gap will be plugged, it will certainly not be surprising to see the cities gliding back to the days where rubbish goes uncollected and the repairs of burst pipes is not carried out, because funds for that won’t be there.

In making such subliminal statements, it’s obvious that Zanu PF officials believe that if they lose the election, the promise would no longer be their problem.

We, therefore, humbly appeal to our political leaders to avoid literally setting the empire ablaze all in an effort to punish a small, but troublesome mouse.