BY SILAS NKALA
THE Municipality of Victoria Falls says efforts to improve service delivery were being hampered by non-payment of rates, with ratepayers owing over $200 million.
Town clerk Ronne Dube told Southern Eye yesterday that they had reduced tariffs by between 33% and 40% to ancourage ratepayers to clear their arrears.
“People are not paying their bills well. If you look at Victoria Falls, it survives through tourism. With the effect of COVID-19 protocals in force, many people have been having difficulties in paying their bills,” Dube said.
“You will find that last month the council resolved to reduce some tariffs so that people are able to cope and pay.
“We reduced water tariffs by 40% and we reduced shop licence fees in high-density areas by 33%.
“We reduced fixed water charges and we came up with a flexible payment plan for shop licences and big businesses so that they are able to stagger their payments.”
Dube said business and shop licence fees used to be paid once at the beginning of the year, but they are being staggered to ease pressure on operators.
“Our debtors at the moment are sitting on $200 million which is very heavy,” he said.
He said the council also introduced a rates waiver for all the debts incurred during the COVID-19-induced lockdowns.
“So that is what the council has done. But knowing the economic environment, people are still not happy but we are also trying to balance things and remain viable and if we go beyond that we may not be able to provide the basic services,” Dube said.
“We have a debt collection department which is phoning people reminding them of their debts and sending summons reminding that some owe debts from before COVID-19 lockdown, so there is no legitimacy in claiming that they were affected by COVID-19.
“So we are saying those who owe us from before COVID-19 lockdown, then we will institute debt collection processes which are legal through our lawyers, but we are obviously giving relief to people who accrued debts during the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Dube said despite failure by ratepayers to settle bills, the town was doing well in terms of water supply and road maintenance unlike other towns where potholes and water problems were common.
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