Rusape residents refuse to pay rates until they get services

Councillor blames Zimbabwe’s struggling economy for lack of funds

Photo of dirt road and houses

Houses started being built in Magamba Extension, Rusape, Zimbabwe, in 2007. Residents say the local council has never provided basic services such as street lighting. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

By Bernard Chiguvare

11 July 2018

Residents of Magamba Extension in Rusape, north-eastern Zimbabwe, are refusing to pay their rates. They say the council has not provided street lights or refuse removal since they started living in the area in 2007.

Last week GroundUp went to Magamba Extension. There are no street lights. There is no piped water and households have dug boreholes.

“We cannot pay for services that the council is not rendering … I had to hire some people to dig a borehole. For electricity I buy candles or paraffin,” said Tarisai Tambanda. She says she has not paid rates since she started living in the area in 2015.

Lovemore Mutomba works as a part-time bricklayer and has been a tenant in Magamba Extension since 2015. The Rusape Town Council rates and services statement for the property he rents is $3,535 in arrears. He says the house owner has not paid any rates.

Councillor Amon Chawasarira, chairperson of the Rusape Town Council said, “When the council offered the land for construction of houses [in 2007] it was through agreement with the people on the [Rusape housing] waiting list … We agreed that people should build houses and then other services would follow.”

He said the council’s biggest challenge was funding. “Some years back the council used to be funded by the Public Sector Investment Programme, but this is no longer the case.” He said this was because of Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

“When residents pay for street lights the money goes into an electricity pool and it is drawn for use according to council plans,” said Chawasarira. “It is not an overnight issue … The council has plans to offer all the services that residents are complaining about.”

He said residents were free to engage the council at anytime.