Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council yesterday proposed to increase rates by more than 100 percent, which residents rejected saying they are already struggling to pay their bills.
The residents also rejected a request by the city council to increase rates in future without consulting them.
If approved, residents in high density suburbs will pay at least $40,70 monthly – assuming they use water within rationing limits – up from about $20,29 while residents in medium density suburbs will pay $70,99 up from $35,61 per month.
The city council is conducting consultative meetings around the city to present its proposal, which has been necessitated by a sharp increase in prices of services and commodities due to inflation.
This has seen the local authority proposing an upward review of its 2019 budget from $212 million to RTGS$475 million.
The budget was approved by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Residents in Ward 13, who gathered at Iminyela Hall yesterday, rejected the proposal and requested the city council to come up with practical figures that most people can afford.
Council officials tried to propose a 50 percent increase, which translated to $32 per month but the residents also rejected it, saying it was still high.
“We’re not happy that the city council is imposing these exorbitant rates on us. Last time they came and we agreed on $21 up from $17 but now they’re proposing to increase the current rates by more than 100 percent.
“We can’t accept that kind of increment because most people in this area are elderly people who are already struggling to pay. We’re therefore requesting the city council to come back with new figures that people can pay,” said Mr Methuseli Bhebhe, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association chairman in the ward.
Mr Victor Mpofu, chairman of the Bulawayo Residents Association in the ward said while they understand the city council’s need to increase the rates and bills, they did not have the capacity to pay.
“People are already struggling to pay the bills, let alone put food on their tables. It’s therefore in the best interests of the city council to increase the rates while bearing that in mind. If these rates are approved people will simply find themselves in debt because they don’t have the money to pay.
“We therefore request the city council to go back to the drawing board and reduce the proposed rates to a level that a majority of people can pay,” said Mr Mpofu.
Ward 3 residents who attended a consultative meeting at Thomas Rudland Primary School said the city council was not solving anything by increasing rates.
“As residents we’re expecting solutions and the increase of rates by the city council will not solve anything. Nobody can afford such rates. A majority of people, not only in Bulawayo but in the country, are not working and they can’t afford to pay such high bills.
“Pensioners are actually earning $70 monthly, some less than that. They surely can’t afford to pay these bills. We’re already paying too much money for rates and water. What the city council is therefore trying to do doesn’t work for now,” said Mr Thamsanqa Sibanda.
Council officials told residents that the increase in the price of fuel, water chemicals based on the exchange rate, prices of goods pegged at parallel market exchange rates and lack of foreign currency were some of the significant factors that forced the council to propose an increase in rates and bills.