PRESS STATEMENT – City of Harare Budget Statement Inadequate

23 November 2020, Harare– The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) strongly objects the ZW$32, 715 billion being proposed in the 2021 budget statement that was presented to the Full Council of the City of Harare on 19 November 2020. The Chairperson of the Finance and Development Committee Chairman Councillor Tichaona Mhetu (Ward 15, Warren Park) tabled a ZW$32, 715 billion proposed budget, which the Council adopted. The statement presented the 2021 budget speech and proposals. The HRT is of the opinion that the budget does not reflect residents’ incomes and inputs made during the virtual consultative meetings that took place in September 2020. There is a clear lack of transparency and accountability in the statement and the way it was presented.

The City of Harare in its statement acknowledges that service delivery in the City is at its lowest point ever. However, it is not taking responsibility. Blame is being given to external factors such as Covid-19, some government parastatals and in some instances the government itself. As a result, the city is absolving itself from any wrongdoings while citing the external factors that they think are beyond their control.

The Harare City Council blames ZINARA for giving them $46.5 million for roads which enabled them to work on a 1,1km road project only for 2020 instead of the targeted 120km. The way they report on this allocated amount is creating the impression that all the money was used to repair only 1,1 kilometre stretch of road. They need to account for that amount allocated by the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA). The HRT observes that the city is reluctant to take full responsibility of its mandate. They must plan with what they have and not what they ought to have. They have City Parking which generates probably USD 4 000 000 per month. Citizens are wondering where the money from the City Parking is going. The continued failure by the City of Harare to unpack the incomes, expenditures and capital development projects being undertaken by the City  Parking gives credence to claims that the City Parking is a conduit for siphoning funds to unaccounted for programmes beyond the control and oversight of the City of Harare. This therefore city is also exhibiting its failure to come up with new ideas to increase revenue.

The proposal to recover debts through a platform controlled by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is a direct admission that on their own, they are unable to think of new ways to increase their revenues while collecting outstanding debts. This failure to find solutions to their debt challenges is a major source of vanishing public confidence in their goods and services. They must confront their own shortcomings because they have departments responsible for debt management and revenue collections. If capacity is lacking within the council, they must fire those who are failing to be creative in their respective portfolio mandates.

Rates have increased beyond the reach of many residents, further straining residents’ incomes that have received battering from inflation in 2020. The City of Harare proposes to increase water consumption charges for the five cubic metres from ZW$20 to ZW$115 (high-density areas), and those in the low-density areas will have their water charges increased from ZW$25 to ZW$153.  Refuse collection at once a week would rise by 1 918 percent from ZW$28 to ZW$565 per month in the high density areas while in the low density areas the council is proposing to increase the charges from ZW$42 to ZW$803 at once a week collection per month, representing a 1 812 percent increase. Health fees are not changing, which is highly commendable on the part of the City of Harare. The informal sector, the largest employer in Zimbabwe, has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Citizens’ sources of livelihoods have been badly affected. Thus, increasing rates for people who are still trying to get back on their feet after the Covid-19 induced business closures shows lack of empathy from the City Council.

In view of the above highlighted issues, the Harare Residents’ Trust finds the 2021 budget proposals unsatisfactory, insensitive and unrealistic. They do not reflect the issues that residents raised during the September 2020 virtual consultative meetings. During consultations, residents emphasised on the need for the City Council to invest more in building the trust of the ratepayers. Rates increased twice in 2020 but service delivery is deteriorating. Therefore, for the HRT, rates increases are not the solution. The City of Harare needs to work on itself to create a robust governance system, which fosters transparency and accountability.

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