Home » Governance » Chombo Denies Causing Councils’ Cash Crisis

LOCAL Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo has denied his populist directive on local authorities to write-off debts owed by rate payers last year has contributed to the current financial crisis that has virtually stalled operations in most municipalities.

Most of the country’s municipalities, among them Chitungwiza, Gwanda and Masvingo, are almost grounded as the authorities agonise on how to placate their restive workers while also doing their core business.

Since Chombo’s order on the eve of last year’s elections, it is said, rate payers have been reluctant to pay their dues, probably hoping for another reprieve.

Chombo has not helped matters either by barring councils from attaching property from defaulters.

But the Zvimba North MP came to Parliament Wednesday to deny he has partially contributed to the mess, further insisting the residents must honour their dues.

“The debts which we scrapped originated from the era of the Zim-dollar,” Chombo said while responding to a question by Kambuzuma MP, Willius Madzimure.

“So it’s the Zim-dollar era debts which were converted into US dollars which we asked to be scrapped off.

“When the debt that you are accruing is genuine, true and correct, we cannot do that. l think everyone has an obligation to pay.”

Madzimure had asked Chombo if the Minister had another trick in his bag to relieve the beleaguered local authorities of the burden they now find themselves in.

Chombo continued: “So the assertion that you are trying to make that the local authorities are in that situation because of that write-off – no the local authorities are actually in a better situation because of the decision we took.

“If somebody owed the local authority US$10, it takes more than $70 for a lawyer to go and collect $10 – so by scrapping off the $10, you are saving the country $70 so 70 minus $10, $60.”

Chombo has come under-fire for his meddling in council affairs, the latest being his move to veto a Harare council decision to suspend its problematic town clerk Tendayi Mahachi for disobeying orders coupled with financial impropriety.

Asked if he had a plan for the current failure by the Chitungwiza municipality to pay its workers, Chombo was adamant he was not going to interfere.

He insisted it remained the prerogative of individual authorities to clean up their mess, adding the town’s restless workforce had a right to demand its wages.

Chitungwiza is saddled with a debt running into tens of millions.

Chombo said those managing the densely populated town must dig deeper into their bag of tricks and pay the workers.

“Employees, whether by local authorities, by a private company or by any entity work, they are entitled to a salary,” he said.

“The Chitungwiza situation is the same, the hard work which the Chitungwiza workers do, they put in their time but what they (administrators) collect from the residents by way of rates, tariffs and wages is not enough to pay for the wages that they earn.”

Chombo continued: “It becomes therefore critical that the city fathers, the mayor and the councillors have got to make decisions whether to retrench the staff so that they can keep the staff sufficient enough to be paid by what they collect.

“That decision is really not made by the ministry but it is made by the mayor and his team, l will encourage them to relook at the situation.

“As government we are concerned not only about Chitungwiza but about any local authority, any government parastatal, for that matter any company, once you work, you deserve to be paid.”

Despite the denials, Chombo, a land baron linked with doggy deals in many urban centres, has been a perpetual albatross around the necks of municipalities.

The Zanu PF politician is unpopular for his indiscriminate expulsion of mayors elected on an opposition ticket and replacing them with handpicked Zanu PF loyalists he was able to manipulate.

Source : New Zimbabwe