Councils demand garnishee powers

LOCAL authorities are seeking garnishing powers to deal with defaulting ratepayers who are reluctant to pay their bills in the absence of such authority.

BY PRAISEMORE SITHOLE/DARLINGTON MWASHITA

This was highlighted at the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) meeting, which kicked off in Bulawayo yesterday.

Speaking during the meeting, Harare mayor Herbert Gomba expressed concern over the reluctance by residents, companies and churches to pay their bills.

“We need to revamp the way we are performing in terms of revenue collection within our local authorities,” he said.

“If you look at the way we are doing it, and how Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is doing it, it is totally different.”

Gomba said local authorities needed to restructure departments responsible for revenue collection.
“I would suggest that we come up with a Zimra-type structure within local authorities not the current set-up, it is not working at all,” he said.

Gomba also said in countries like the United States, local authorities in a very small community have garnishee powers which see them collecting over US$270 million a year.

He added that if he had a choice, he would steal most of the people working for Zimra to work for City of Harare.

“Plead for garnishing powers, the minister and the President will be here tomorrow (today). Let us have those so that we are able to garnish church leaders that are going to holidays in Dubai without paying local authorities,” he said.

“Let’s garnish companies that owe local authorities money,” he said, adding the culture of people not paying local authorities’ bills was found in Zimbabwe only.

“If you go to other countries, you don’t just wake up ignoring the bills. We must transform the thinking of our people so that we make it imperative for them to pay municipal bills,” he added.
Gomba also expressed concern over contemporary churches especially those into healing which he said were richer than the local authorities.

“We must now adopt the same methods being used by Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa (church leaders). If Magaya is getting much in terms of revenue, why can’t we? It tells much about ourselves as people within the local authority,” he said.

“I am a bit emotional about it. I have seen people refusing to increase rates for 10 years in local authorities and this has not helped us. If we are to approach them, let’s first clean fully our own houses.”