Harare Council Crippled by Government Debt, Says Mayor Jacob Mafume

March 26, 2024
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Jacob Mafume, Mayor of Harare,

In a frank address to the media on Monday, Jacob Mafume, Mayor of Harare, disclosed that outstanding debts owed by the government and its affiliated bodies are severely impeding the capital’s service delivery mechanisms. Speaking from the heart of the city, Mafume highlighted the operational challenges faced by the City of Harare, attributing the escalating debt issue as a primary concern that needs urgent attention.

According to Mafume, “Debtors to the council are a cause for concern. Ironically, the government, which should be a model debtor, ranks as one of our largest defaulters.” He underscored the paradoxical situation where the government, aware of the predicament, continues to be a significant part of the problem. Harare, like many councils across the country, operates on a post-service basis — a practice where services are provided upfront with payment expected afterward. “This approach has backfired, leading to a substantial accrual of unpaid bills,” Mafume explained.

The mayor revealed that the government’s arrears amount to millions of US dollars, a staggering sum that hampers the city’s capability to offer critical services. The ongoing feud over fiscal responsibilities between the city council and the central government has taken a toll on Harare’s residents. The deadlock has exacerbated the city’s vulnerability to health crises, including the feared outbreaks of cholera.

In an attempt to break the impasse, Mafume announced plans to engage Winston Chitando, the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, in discussions aimed at resolving the outstanding debts. “We intend to present a comprehensive list of debtors to the minister, who has already acknowledged the issue,” Mafume said, expressing optimism about reaching a resolution through dialogue. He emphasized the difficult position in which the council finds itself, as legal action against the government is not a viable option. Cooperation and reliance on mutual understanding are deemed essential for navigating this complex issue.

The financial strain on Harare’s administration underlines a broader crisis affecting service delivery in urban areas, where infrastructure and public health services are at risk. The mayor’s call for government accountability and swift action is a crucial step towards restoring normalcy and ensuring the well-being of Harare’s residents.