Kwekwe in cash crisis

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Kwekwe City Council is in a serious financial squeeze which could see a total collapse of service delivery and trigger labour unrest.

By Blessed Mhlanga, Staff Reporter

Council is now struggling to meet its own sky-rocketing debtors’ bill, which has now climbed to over $14 million over the past three years, according to finance committee chairperson Queenly Chitopo.

Chitopo said council owed Zesa more than $6 million and the debt continues to grow because ratepayers were neglecting to pay their own bills.

Zimbabwe Water Authority (Zinwa) last month tightened its water valves at Sebakwe Dam, forcing the city to run dry over a $1,2 million raw water debt, which council is accused of failing to settle.

The water authority only reopened the taps after council paid $5 000 and promised to pay at least $12 000 weekly until the debt is cleared.

Zinwa corporate communications manager Marjorie Munyonga confirmed the deal which Chitopo said would be very difficult to meet if revenue inflows did not increase.

“We had closed our taps over non payment of a debt now standing at $1,2 million, but we have since worked out a plan with the local authority and reconnected them late last Wednesday after they paid $5 000,” she said.

“They will now pay $12 000 every week until they clear the debt.”

Chitopo said although she was willing to settle the Zinwa debt council purse strings were tied.

“We are collecting a total of $600 000 a month instead of $1,2 million and of the revenue collected, $540 000 goes towards our salaries and only $60 000 is left for service delivery, so if inflows do not improve, we face a serious crisis as a local authority,” she said.

Workers at Town House are yet to get their April salaries owing to the cash squeeze, which has all but tied the hands of treasury, raising fears of a labour unrest.

Council employs close to 700 workers, whose families hold a large influence in council elections. Kwekwe, which is running on a revenue budget of $26 million, is owed $23 million by residents and rate payers with over $12 million being held by sleeping iron and steel giant Ziscosteel.