THE Bulawayo City Council has warned ratepayers with accounts overdue for more than three months to settle them immediately or risk losing their properties to debt collectors.
The local authority says attaching and selling people’s properties is the only option to recover money.
“The attachment of property is the legally correct way to recover debts. It is used as a last resort after all attempts have failed to get the person to honour his or her obligations,” Nesisa Mpofu, the council spokesperson said.
Mpofu said bills warned ratepayers that if they default payment for more than two months then council could resort to legal action.
“The council bill states that if an account is overdue by 60 days or more, legal action may be taken without further notice. Council, therefore, targets amounts that are overdue. Residential properties owing $200 and above are handed over for the legal process.”
The council has engaged debt collectors to attach and auction properties belonging to defaulting ratepayers to recover nearly $90 million it is owed by residents, including government departments.
It is an open secret most local authorities are battling to finance some of their core activities resulting in poor services delivery due to huge monies owed by residents and central government.
But we appeal to the city fathers to reconsider its decision to auction properties of residents in default considering that the generality of citizens are equally cash-strapped due to the prevailing harsh economic environment.
We suggest council engage residents to find a solution in settling debts instead of proceeding with its scorched earth strategy of seizing private property reminiscent of the days of colonialism where people’s properties were grabbed willy nilly by overzealous baas boys.
Most residents are failing to put food on table while others are surviving by less than a dollar a day in townships because of lack of jobs.
While we agreed residents should not live for free like birds, it does not need a rocket scientist to phantom that they do not have the financial wherewithal to fully honour their debts.
Several companies in Bulawayo closed in the past year as a result of the economic meltdown which has seen companies fail to pay workers their monthly wages and salaries.
It would be an indictment to council if it proceeds with the seizure of properties at a time when everyone, including the government, is reeling from a prevailing liquidity crunch. Council should proceed with caution.