ChiTown ratepayers fret over US$ bills

Chitungwiza Municipality

CHITUNGWIZA ratepayers are up in arms over the municipality’s decision to start charging for its services in United States dollars (US$) with effect from this week.

The decision has forced property owners to hike their rental charges.

In several notices, Chitungwiza Municipality advised residents that it would start billing in US dollars with effect from May 1.

The businesses accused the council of unilaterally bringing back US$ bills which they described as inflated.

Chitungwiza Business Association secretary David Ndoro said: “What has forced the increase of fixed water charge and refuse from US$34,50 to US$95, yet water supply is erratic and garbage is not collected? Refuse at Gomba Shopping Centre in Zengeza 4 has not been collected for years.”

He said businesses were also failing to pay council bills.

“For a bar, the licence which was US$600 is now US$1 000 and for leasing they will be paying US$299 per month. Businesses are prepared to pay in US$ as long as the amount is affordable,” he said.

Makoni Retailers Association president Innocent Chikuvanyanga said most businesses could shut down as owners of the properties had started hiking their rental fees.

“This is going to affect businesses mostly at Makoni Shopping Centre where rents have been high already. Landlords will be forced to hike rentals and some have already increased from US$400 to US$800,” he said.

“But rentals depend on the size of the premise one is renting. Those running bottlestores are crying the most. This is driving people into poverty. Where I rent with someone else we are charged US$470 each.

“Most of the businesses are going to be closed because of the increase because if they continue operating they won’t realise profits. We are struggling to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19. On top of the bills, Chitungwiza introduced property rates,” he said.

Residents’ representatives have also been outraged by the introduction of US dollar bills.

“Residents can’t afford that because most of them earn salaries in RTGS,” said Chitungwiza and Manyame Residents Association secretary Brighton Mazhindu.

Chitungwiza acting town clerk Evangelista Machona said all outstanding bills in local currency will be converted to US dollars.


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