Abigail Mawonde Harare Bureau
REDCLIFF Municipality is evicting 600 people from council houses for failing to pay rent.
Redcliff Mayor Clr Freddy Kapuya, on Tuesday said the occupants owed the town almost $1million.
The Midlands town owns 860 houses, which it is now selling to sitting tenants.
Those that are being evicted failed to pay rentals ranging between $12 and $20 a month.
They also failed to come up with a payment plan and the debt has ballooned to $1 million, according to Clr Kapuya.
In an interview, Clr Kapuya confirmed the development saying the council would realise $13 million from the sale of the houses.
“We have 860 houses and these are rented out to people. The houses belonged to Ziscosteel and it handed them over to council 25 years ago. Ziscosteel initially wanted their employees to stay there. The houses were not surveyed and were substandard with people using communal toilets,” said Clr Kapuya.
He said the council saw the need to standardise the houses and borrowed $1 million in 2012.
“We then upgraded the houses so that we could sell them. Council charges $12 for a two roomed house and $20 a four roomed house a month.The houses are sitting on stands ranging between 150 and 300 square metres,” said Clr Kapuya.
He said residents were staying for almost free given the low rentals.
“Basically, they’re staying for free. We made a resolution in January that we need to evict these people. We evicted them without a court order in December last year and they successfully appealed in court. The court said we should use proper procedures,” said Clr Kapuya.
He said council, through its lawyers, then wrote to the tenants advising them to come up with a payment plan to liquidate the debts.
“Some came up with a payment plan while others ignored. Some haven’t paid a cent since July 15, 2013 after the government directed that we cancel their debts. They now owe us an average of $900 per household. Council then obtained a judgment to evict those who didn’t come up with a payment plan. Last time we evicted 400 and this time around we’re evicting 200 to make them 600,” said Clr Kapuya.
Among those being evicted are 91 year olds.
“On the question of old people some of them 91 year olds, we’ve asked our officers to investigate that. We’ve two old people’s homes in Redcliff that we own as a council. If they don’t have relatives, they’ll be taken care of there. We’ll provide for them while they stay at the homes. We’ve a monthly budget for the homes,” said Clr Kapuya.
He said the houses were being sold at between $4,000 and $5,000.
“We’re giving the right of first refusal to sitting tenants. We’ll realise $13 million as a council and be able to pay our workers whom we owe. The decision to evict them is a council decision as there was a resolution to that effect,” he said.
Ziscosteel, now NewZim Steel, was the town’s biggest employer and its closure several years ago left thousands in Redcliff without a source of income.