Chombo debt write-off illegal – Masunda

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HARARE – Outgoing Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda has said Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s directive to write-off outstanding rates was thoughtless and lacking in legal basis.

Chombo on Tuesday directed councils nationwide to write-off all accumulated water bills, unit tax, rentals, fees and levies outstanding from 2009 to June 2013.

According to the law, Chombo was supposed to make a proposal to council, to which after critical evaluation, the authorities report back to him in 30 days, Masunda said.

“Chombo’s decision is not valid at law,” Masunda said. “It is council, on its own, which after due consideration of the debts at hand writes them off, excluding rates.

“This is the most thoughtless and outrageous decision I have ever heard in my life and the repercussions are severe. We are going to become another Detroit and suffer politically-induced bankruptcy all in the name of politics, God forbid.

“Running of the city is not for politicians and they should stay away.”

According to Masunda, Harare city — which is currently owed $400 million — usually stocks water chemicals that last for a week and said very soon the city will run out of chemicals and there will be a crisis with devastating consequences.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said the minister’s edict — which comes six days ahead of a major poll — was a populist directive by a “caretaker minister.”

“While the MDC understands the plight of residents and sympathises with them for the hardships they are facing in failing to pay their bills because of mismanagement and corruption of the Zanu PF government, we note with concern the timing of Chombo’s directive,” the MDC said in a statement.

“It is not a genuine directive meant to benefit the suffering people of Zimbabwe but it is a Zanu PF campaign tool as it has realised that the people of Zimbabwe are going to punish them on 31 July for mismanaging the economy over the last 33 years.”

The MDC statement described it as “cheap populism” and a “thoughtless development” that has no legal basis and will land Zimbabwe in a serious service delivery dilemma.

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