Fungai Lupande Mash Central Bureau
The business community in Bindura is livid over a 20-fold increase in municipal licence fees and rates being implemented without notice which they said threatened the viability of the town’s business sector.
Even their customers are expected to pay vehicle parking fees of $20 per hour. The council admits it set rates, fees and charges in US dollars and simply applied the interbank rate on the date the bills are sent out, a practice declared illegal for every other activity in Zimbabwe and by inference illegal for local government charges.
In an interview, secretary-general of the business community, Mr Richard Phiri, said an average business was expected to pay each month a commercial assessment rate of $14 000, business licence and operating licence of $8 000, and water and other utilities bills of $800. That meant this typical business was expected to pay the municipality $22 800 each month. The licence fees are, in fact, annual but that still leaves a huge bill for rates and utilities.
Rates were around $500.
The operating licence for a driving school is now $10 810, bakery $31 300 and retail businesses $8 000.
In a letter to Bindura Mayor Councillor Carlos Tokyo on January 9 business operators said they were “in shock” over the “outrageous” increases in rates and licence fees.
They requested council to reverse or review the rates and stop enforcing them until they had reached a consensus.
“We don’t believe that this has to do with inflation because currently there is currency stability. We don’t expect council to speculate but it should carry the vision of the country,” said Mr Phiri.
“This budget was not consultative and we are petitioning the council. Now they are sending letters of demand for the new rates which we were never notified of.
“The mayor told us that they bought eight cars; one of them is his yet there is no service delivery. We can’t afford these rates. We are not even realising half of the money they are demanding as profit. Illegal traders are operating at our doorsteps, selling the same products and the council is not addressing this.”
Mr Phiri believed the MDC-A run council was out to discredit the Government.
Clr Tokyo said the council adopted the budget after residents and the business community failed to attend a budget consultation meeting.
“The budget was indexed in US$ and we multiplied the amounts by the interbank rate. All these licences and rates are paid annually and the assessment rate is charged according to the size of the building,” he said.
“We haven’t bought the vehicles yet and they are to improve service delivery because currently council is renting cars. The two Zanu-PF councillors were elected into important committees and we are complementing Government’s efforts.”
Clr Tokyo agreed that the vehicle parking fees were too high and said the council would look into the issue.