By Livingstone Mtetwa
CHIPINGE residents and businesses are reeling after council reverted to its 2017 US dollar budget expressed in Zimbabwean dollars at the prevailing auction rate and topped up with a 10 percent inflation contingency.
This represented an over 600 percent hike in tariffs from 2020 bills.
With the hike coming when the country has been under lockdown since March last year with restricted economic activity, locals have charged the local authority for being insensitive.
The local authoritys 2021 budget saw the water development tariffs rise 655 percent from ZW$75.00 to ZW$566.00, the refuse collection go up 499 percent from ZW$75.00 to ZW$449.00 and the sewerage levy climbing 542 percent from ZW$86.25.00 to ZW$554.00 with business licenses going up by over 300 percent.
The decision to hike rates during these difficult times is anti-business and a total disregard for democratic processes because no consultations were made as no sane resident or business person would have supported such astronomical increases when businesses across the world are folding because of the coronavirus epidemic, said one miffed general-dealer.
Residents have taken to social media to express their shock at the new rates and are demanding their immediate review.
Chipinge Town Secretary Dr. Susan Dube is digging in on the tariff increases arguing that they were done in full compliance with government recommendations and local government regulations.
“A circular came from the Minister Hon Raymond Machingura concerning the creation of the budget for 2021 which explained that the budget was to be created in Zim dollars but taking into consideration the auction rate hence the budget was created on the basis of the current auction rate plus a 10% variation such that if there would be inflation in prices it would be within the stipulated 10% variation,” explained Dube.
Dube said they went to the US dollar budget that had been operational from 2009 up to 2017.
“As Chipinge Town Council we went back to our US dollar budget that was operational from 2009 to 2017, she said.
She also said the budget was formulated with representatives from all the relevant stakeholders.
“We formed a budget team which accommodated a representative with an understanding of figures from all the stakeholders affected thus the business community, health sector, civic organisations, residents association, people living with disability among others,” Dube said.