Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
VICTORIA Falls councillors have threatened to take action against two leading Legacy Hotels in Victoria Falls who owe the municipality nearly $200 000 in unpaid water and rates.
Speaking at a full council meeting on Monday, councillors said the municipality was being lenient on corporate entities that fail to service their debts yet ordinary ratepayers were being penalised for not paying.
Ward 8 Councillor Robson Salimi who was leading discussions on payment of water and rates, implored his counterparts to appeal to residents to pay their water bills and rates to avoid litigation.
“Fellow councillors, may we encourage residents to pay what they owe to council. Some paid for servicing of the refuse truck and there are some who are not paying at all. We don’t want to end up taking the litigation route,” he highlighted.
Ward 9 Clr Somveli Dlamini interjected.
“What is the situation with businesses? We are being lenient to them, we can’t be seen taking ordinary poor residents to court when there are big entities who aren’t paying. Let’s be seen first pressuring these businesses to honour their obligations,” he said.
The Cllrs demanded to know how much Elephant Hills and Kingdom Hotel owe the municipality as the two entities were not paying their dues.
Town Treasurer Mr Neville Ndlovu said Elephant Hills and Kingdom Hotel owe council close to $200 000. Mayor Cllr Sifiso Mpofu implored management to come up with strategies of dealing with the issue and other businesses that were not paying rates and other service charges.
This is not the first time Victoria Falls municipality and the same hotels have clashed over non-payment of bills and rates.
Three years ago, the municipality dragged The Kingdom Hotel, The Victoria Falls Hotel and Elephant Hills Hotel to court for failing to pay more than $380 000 in rates and water charges accrued over an unspecified period. Then Elephant Hills owed $166.457.51, The Victoria Falls Hotel ($125.676.32) while The Kingdom Hotel had a cumulative debt of $91.762.63.
The hotels had allegedly stopped paying following what they termed an unscrupulous hike in rates by the council at a time when hotel occupancy was low.
The issue was later settled when Legacy Hotel paid more than $200 000 to clear the debt.
Things almost went off hand when the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) ordered the municipality to reverse rates after tourism operators in the resort town complained that they were too high.
The Victoria Falls business community that is dominated by tour operators, hotels and lodges, had threatened to withdraw various charity work and developmental projects in the resort town after council hiked rates by more than 500 percent.
The local authority however argued that it acted within the confines of the law