Sukulwenkosi Dube Plumtree Correspondent
The government workers in Plumtree Town, Bulilima and Mangwe Districts have petitioned the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing over rent increases effected on government houses they are occupying.The ministry issued the civil servants with a new rental schedule last Monday increasing rentals by up to 300 percent with effect from January.
The workers refused to sign new lease agreements and have since petitioned the government over the matter. The petitioners said their salaries could not sustain the new rentals. In the petition, the workers implored the ministry to stick to the previous charges.
They also noted that the increments had exceeded their housing allowance allocation.
“We would like to lodge a petition that rentals shouldn’t be raised because it’s our understanding that rental increments should be in tandem with the current bank lending rate which is fixed at five percent,” reads the petition.
“Our observation of the proposed increase in rentals shows an average of 300 percent which is in variance of the above mentioned statement.”
The civil servants said there is no justification for these rental increases as the relevant ministry has not been repairing and maintaining government houses for the past six years.
“Rather tenants have been financing the repairs,” added the petition.
The petition follows a meeting between government workers from the three areas with the ministry officials in Plumtree last Monday.
According to the new schedule presented at the meeting by Matabeleland South Provincial Housing Officer, Francis Gadzikwa, the rental for a three bedroomed house in the high density area in Plumtree was increased from $20 to $112,50.
In the medium density area the rentals for three bedroomed houses were increased from $30 to $168,75 while workers in the low density areas will pay $187,50 from $38 for the same number of rooms.
Gadzikwa said rent for a two bedroomed flat in town had increased from $26 to $112,50 while government workers occupying three bedroomed flats were going to pay $168,75 up from $34.
In rural districts rentals for three bedroomed houses in medium density areas had increased from $20 to $120.
Heads of government departments who attended the meeting bombarded the delegation from the ministry’s provincial office with questions and said they would accept the rental increment only if government increased their salaries.
“As it is the government has frozen our salary increments but the rentals that we’re paying are being increased. How can the government give us salaries and at the same time take half the money away by charging exorbitant rentals?” said one departmental head.
The departmental heads also said they were not given notice of the increments.
Gadzikwa told the meeting that government had increased the rentals in a bid to raise money to renovate the houses.
He said if the departmental heads refused to sign the new lease agreements the new rentals would still be effected.