The Zimbabwe Republic Police were on Monday called to disperse a handful of Kwekwe residents who had gathered at the Town House allegedly to stage a demonstration against new tariffs effected by the local authority.
The police formed a barricade to bar the residents from entering the council offices, where the group was demanding to have a sit down with the local authority`s management. The local authority has started implementing tariffs from the recently approved ZW$7.5 billion budget.
Some residents in the group that had gathered at the municipal offices told 98.4FM News that they were not demonstrating, but were there only to demand the council management officials` attention so that they table their grievances.
“We have not come here to demonstrate but we decided that we pay them (council) a visit as they don`t want to come to us and I think perhaps they feel lazy to come to us. We came to hear from them if as residents we have become the council`s slaves,” one resident said.
Another resident said: “We have come here concerning our bills, where the rates came quite high and it shocked us. As residents from Mbizo, this is why we are here, to ask the council to tell us how we got to receive these high bills, considering that in our previous engagement with them (council) we reached an agreement but the bills we received are not what we agreed.”
The residents complained that the bills were too high and felt that the city council was not being sympathetic to their financial plight.
“When they made the budget consultations, we told them that we are not in a sound financial position and then we suggested that the council comes up with a standstill budget. Now the bills have come and they range from ZW$13 000 to ZW$24 000 per month!” a Mbizo resident said.
One resident, who identified herself as Gadzikwa from Ward 12, said she felt that the increase was unjustified as the council was not providing efficient service delivery.
“The roads are bad and the tower lights are not working so we are surprised where the funds we are paying are going to. We wonder why they have raised the tariffs because we are not seeing any meaningful progress, for example, there is no running water, especially in Mbizo 15 where some people are going for months without water, said Gadzikwa.
She added: “Right now they have called the police on us yet we are the ones who gave them the mandate to represent us in council. Now they are ill-treating us as residents.”
Meanwhile, the Kwekwe Tenants and Residents Association, which allegedly organised the alleged demonstration, has distanced itself from the event.
A message circulating on social media, which purportedly was crafted by Ngulube’s association, rallied residents to join a planned demonstration against the city council over the increased tariffs.
The association’s chairperson Trust Jack Ngulube said they only wanted to hand over a petition to the local authority, not to carry out a demonstration.
“We are only petitioning the council to grant residents relief, which covers a wide range of problems that people face. The relief, what it covers is what our representatives were going to discuss with the council,” Ngulube said.
He added that his association wanted to table residents and tenants’ concerns over “the high and unstainable charges and bills to the community.”
“Of note is that residents are living under very unsustainable and abnormal living conditions in light of the COVID 19 restrictions, which have affected the welfare of households. The people who are actually petitioning are pleading with the local authority to grant relief in terms of increase in service charges by the city of Kwekwe”
Ngulube also said the message calling for a demonstration did not originate from his association.
The central government recently approved Kwekwe’s $7.5 billion budget. Kwekwe Mayor Future Titora has defended the budget saying it sought to cater for key service delivery deficiencies in water, roads, health and sanitation.