GWERU council management and councillors have clashed over the $1,8 billion 2020 budget — a 3 900% hike from 2019’s $46 million — sent for approval to Local Government minister July Moyo without consensus, council minutes reveal.

Already some services have been hiked with burial fees going from $80 to $1 097.

Rentals for council-owned two-roomed houses in Mkoba where tenants were paying $40 have been raised to $600 a month.

Home-seekers wishing to settle in Gweru by way of building houses will also have to dig deeper into their pockets. Occupation certificate fees have been raised from $30 to $5 000 while beacon relocation which was previously $150 now costs $9 000.

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A fuel service station licence that is renewed annually has risen from $3 000 to $84 000, while, yearly licence fees for surgeries are now $40 000.

Minutes of a closed-door full council meeting held on December 6 last year show that councillors threw brickbats at acting finance director Owen Masimba for sending the $1,8 billion budget to Moyo without consensus between management and the city fathers.

The minutes show that councillors Albert Chirawu and Trust Chineni berated management and insinuated that it conducted a “coup d’etat” on the councillors.

“The budget for 2020 for Gweru was supposed to be multiplied with that of 2019 using the interbank rate which was at $16 per US$1. This means that since our budget of 2019 was $46 million so if we multiplied that by 16 we were supposed to get about $734 million. This figure of $1,8 billion is unjustified,” Chirawu said then.

According to the minutes, other councillors concurred with Chirawu.

Gweru Residents Forum director, Charles Mazorodze, yesterday said it was absurd for council to increase its budget to such high levels considering that people struggled to pay for services even when they were still cheaper.

“Last year residents of Gweru were failing to pay for services pegged at the $46 million budget. Now that the budget will have fees that are pegged using the $1,8 billion budget, it is difficult to believe that they will afford,” he said.

“At the moment council is owed millions by the residents who failed to pay last year, so it just indicates that the situation will be worse this year given the new higher fees,” Mazorodze said.

Council spokesperson Vimbai Chingwaramusee said the $1,8 billion figure was arrived at after factoring in the prevailing economic climate. She said minister Moyo was yet to approve the budget.

“It has not yet been approved. We adjusted the budget in line with the prevailing economic situation. The local authority will consider the complaints from residents as it remains sensitive to their plight,” she said.

Deputy mayor Cleopas Shiri told Southern Eye that the councillors agreed to have an implementation matrix of the budget in which charges will be increased every three months instead of once off.

“There is a standing resolution that council will come up with an implementation matrix of the proposed budget,” he said.