By Daniel Chigundu
GOVERNMENT has called on residents in Harare to pay for services they are getting from city council adding that the era of free service has ended.
Harare is reportedly owed more than US$700 million by both residents and companies in unpaid water bills and to make matter worse; the city council is only managing to collect about half of what it would have billed on a monthly basis.
The erratic payment of bills has resulted in the city council struggling to effectively discharge its various duties that include the provision of safe and clean water, garbage collection and road maintenance among many others.
Speaking to the media on the sideline of a meeting with Harare City Council, Local Government, Public Works and National House Permanent Secretary George Magosvongwe said residents must pay for the service they demand.
“Residents must pay for the services which they are provided, it’s a practical matter, it’s something that residents have to be taught just like the culture of cleanliness at an individual level, and it is a new culture that we must introduce.
“The era where you expect a free service in an environment where everything has a cost has ended and we got to commit ourselves to paying for the services that we demand,” he said.
In 2013 government wrote-off all outstanding water bills owed to local authorities by residents and already some are of the idea that it might be repeated in time for the impending 2018 general elections.
Some residents have raised the issue of the economic situation obtaining in the country as an albatross that has made them fail to honour their bills.
Magosvongwe however, added that no matter how difficult the situation might be in the country at the moment but as long as people are alive they have to find means of paying off their bills if they want services.
“…it may be that we are talking about economics and we are saying things are difficult but your life is not as difficult as you say it is, if you are alive you have got to find a way of living your life, so residents must pay because what they expect as a service is paid for, there is a cost centre to every service and the costs must be serviced by the residents,” he said.
The permanent secretary added that local authorities have an obligation to provide a service and residents who enjoy the service have to an obligation to pay and avoid the topical issue of debtor collectors.
“…so the legal processes for collection are processes that got to be legitimate and legitimate processes stay within the law.
“The issues of debt collectors engaged by local authorities they are part of the legal processes and ought to be done correctly and we are saying to avoid debt collector issue as it is being raised by residents, let us pay up our bills,” said Magosvongwe.
There has also been an outcry over the state of water in Harare where the residents have said it is unfair to be billed for water which is unusable not even for laundry.