BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with the local authority revealing that payment of bills by residents has drastically gone down.
Bulawayo is one of the cities in Zimbabwe whose economy is highly informalised owing to de-industrialisation with many companies relocating either to Harare or outside the country.
With most of the residents now operating in the informal sector, which the government categorised as nonessential during this current lockdown, it was always going to spell doom for the city fathers. According to the local authority, only 16 percent of Bulawayo ratepayers paid fully their bills in 2020 while 22 percent did not make any payments at all resulting in council being owed nearly $663 million by ratepayers.
The government departments also owe council several millions of dollars. However, the council’s woes are likely to be worsened by Covid-19 and the recently increased tariffs, a development that is likely to see a high number of defaulters. BCC increased its rates by 372 percent after its supplementary budget was recently approved by the government.
The local authority was forced to seek a supplementary budget after the first wave of Covid-19 saw them incurring unbudgeted expenses, thereby leaving them in the negative. As if that is not enough, government has also approved the council’s 2021 budget which will see rates and service charges going up by a further 10 percent.
This is at a time when the local authority is battling service delivery challenges like poor state of roads, water shortages, sewage bursts, failure to collect refuse and the failure to pay workers on time which led to a strike which was later resolved.
Residents who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the grim economic outlook worsened by the pandemic has rendered them unable to afford basics, let alone council bills.