$25 000 farm debt haunts ex-mayor

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Former Bulawayo mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube had a request for a $25 000 debt reprieve turned down by the city council after he failed to pay rentals for a farm in Esigodini.

BY STAFF REPORTER

According to the latest council minutes, Ncube recently wrote to council seeking a write-off of the huge debt and reduction of the $345 per month rentals for Inyakuni Dam Lot 84 Farm, which is owned by the Bulawayo City Council.

The ex-mayor said he was “financially very low and crippled” hence the desperate plea to the council.

This was after the council gave the former MDC mayor a January ultimatum to pay off the debt that accumulated from 2009.

In the letter, Ncube admitted owing council, but said he had made an appeal for rentals to be reduced last year and the local authority had not responded to his request.

Last year, Ncube had requested for a reduction of rentals saying the farm had no fence and livestock from surrounding villages often strayed into his area.

He said he lost 43 head of cattle to thieves while 15 fell into pits dug bygold panners.

“At one time I had a herd of 93 cattle at the farm and now I have only 31 left,” Ncube said in the letter to council.

“I appealed to the council through the relevant department requesting for reduction in the rental figure, but unfortunately had no success as there was no response.”

The politician said he regretted not paying rentals and was appealing for forgiveness.

“I must make it categorically clear that on my part it was not wise, certainly not correct and indeed not right and prudent for me to abdicate my responsibility to pay whatsoever was due, even if council had not responded to my request based on the conditions at the farm,” he wrote.

“On hindsight it was an unfortunate mistake and error on my part and indeed poor action, I must admit.”

Ncube said his appeal for a reprieve was “purely on humanitarian basis and consideration”.

He requested to surrender the commercial stand given to him as an exit package as a “goodwill gesture.”

However, various council heads of department felt that Ncube was not serious about settling the debts and feared that a debt write-off would create a wrong precedent.

The council said rentals for the property had been pegged at $345 per month since 2009 for grazing land.

“I doubt very much if Ncube was ever serious in meeting his rental obligations,” the director wrote in response to the request.

“Since 2009 only $1 280 was paid towards the rent account representing 3,5 months’ rental and the arrears have accumulated to $25 565,31 as at today’s date.

“He should not have waited until now to complain about the high rent.”

Only councillor Lot Siziba showed sympathy saying the local authority should consider the fact the farm was not fenced and villagers had access to the property.

He suggested that council could reduce rentals and give Ncube time to settle the debt.

The council’s Finance and Development Committee which handled the matter resolved to only reduce Ncube’s rentals by 50% in line with incentives extended to industry and commerce.

He would now pay $150 a month, but would have to pay the outstanding $25 000. Ncube was mayor between 2001 and 2008.