BULAWAYO residents’ groups and consumer watchdogs have dismissed suggestions by council that they did not raise objections to its proposed 700%rates increase.

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) said it was now awaiting Local Government ministry approval after ratepayers allegedly gave thumps up to the supplementary budget, but residents claimed their objections were ignored by the local authority.

“A majority of residents rejected the increments during public consultations, but we have a problem of good institutions deteriorating into elite-based, self-serving institutions that are serving the interests of the elite first and those of residents later,” Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association executive director Emmanuel Ndlovu said.

“The rates hike and the kind of service delivery we are receiving do not match…they have asked for a waiver from the Local Government ministry to allow them to hike rates without consultation. This is what they were aiming at.”

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Council is owed millions by ratepayers.

National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) coordinator Effie Ncube argued that there was no way residents could have approved a 700% hike in rates and tariffs under the prevailing economic climate.

“The hike is completely unaffordable and a reflection of a BCC that is fast losing touch with reality. In this poverty and pain, it cannot be right that any person, let alone a city father and mother, will find it normal to raise rates by such a figure,” Ncube said.

He added: “Nacora rejects the increase as it will not be (matched with) quality service delivery, just as has happened before.”

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association executive director Michael Ndiweni weighed in saying informal traders rejected the 700% tariff proposal. The majority of citizens are now informal traders due to lack of jobs as a result of company closures and the harsh economic climate.

“BCC must also think of other revenue streams that will show ingenuity from them. For example, the city has a rich history, it must partner with other stakeholders and make money on urban tourism. You go to other cities across the world, you pay an arm and a leg to do a city tour, residents under this economic condition, cannot carry the burden alone.

“Government must take responsibility and provide grants, not only those to do with devolution of power, but others which can also provide some opportunities for the local authority to have other revenue sources, that empower it,” Ndiweni said.

Council has, however, vowed to proceed with the proposed rates and tariffs increase in the face of inflation despite resistance from residents with mayor Solomon Mguni saying “city fathers cannot watch Bulawayo die”.