HARARE residents have blasted council over recent astronomical rates hikes, arguing they are anti-poor and should be challenged in a court of law.
The uproar came after the Local Government ministry approved the 2020 Harare city budget which saw the local authority quadrupling water charges by 400 percent, raising sewer charges by 300 percent, doubling property rents, while property rates spiralled up 16-fold.
City fathers confirmed that the new rates were now effective and would be dated back to January 1, 2020.
According to the newly approved budget, in high density suburbs, the first five cubic metres of water costs $20 a cubic metre up from $5 with the basic 5 000 litres for an average family pegged at $100.
Charges are higher in low-density suburbs where the first five cubic metres is now $25 a cubic metre, the next five cubic metres will cost $29 a cubic metre, the next 10 cubic metres $33 a cubic metre and everything above 20 cubic metres will cost $41 a cubic metre.
Water charges for industrial and commercial users have risen almost five times to $20 a cubic metre.
Sewer charges have increased to $41 a toilet in high-density areas and $91 a toilet in low-density areas.
Council also doubled rentals for properties it leases out. In high-density suburbs, including Tafara and Mabvuku, where residents pay the lowest rates, property tax rates are up to $56.
In low density suburbs, where property taxes are charged on the value of land, the rates have also increased. Rates in suburbs like Borrowdale will jump to $1 051 while an average Mount Pleasant bill rises to $845.
However, the Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) has condemned the budget, arguing that it was flawed as ratepayers were not invited to inspect and participate in the process.
“This undemocratic move both thwarts the residents’ voice and public scrutiny in order to avoid resistance by residents on the proposed ‘dubious’ water charges that will see the poor in high-density suburbs subsiding industry,” Chra said.
“The City of Harare cannot claim that it is charging “sub economic” rates from the 2018 budget, while it is proposing to charge ZWL/RTGS $20 for 50 000 litres of water to industries, this is the worst sub economic tariff ever.
“Residents had concerns on the proposed charges but they were not given a chance to give their feedback because council did not avail the budget for inspection.
“Chra will use all available options at its disposal to ensure compliance to the budget laws. ”