Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Vic Falls council haunted by debts

VICTORIA FALLS Town Council is failing to repay a $15 million loan it got from the government to rehabilitate infrastructure ahead of the hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly held in the resort town in August 2013.
The government last year released $15 million to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority and Victoria Falls municipality for water supply.
The money was to be used for the upgrading of the water sewer plant, construction of a 1 000-cubic metre reservoir for Mkhosana high-density suburb and the rehabilitation and expansion of sewer ponds.
A further $822 000 was released for the rehabilitation of council roads.
However, reports indicate that the cash strapped municipality, which is owed about $5,8 million by ratepayers, is struggling to service the government loan.
Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu said he was not aware of the debt his council owed the government.
“I am not aware of that. Instead it’s UNWTO which funded the projects. I am not aware of the government debt,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to clarify the matter were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.
However, sources close to council said the loan repayment was haunting the town fathers as council coffers were dry.
“They are failing to repay the loan. In addition to the government debt, the council is also heavily indebted to Zesa Holdings and Zinwa with a combined total of over a $1 million, amid a dwindling resource base due to Chombo’s directive last year to slash residents’ debts,” said a source.
Victoria Falls municipality has been singing the blues due to cash flow problems with its debt ballooning to $5,8 million as companies and residents continue to default on paying rates, threatening service delivery in the country’s prime resort town.
Municipalities across the country have experienced serious cash problems following a government edict last year to scrap municipal debts owed by households. The economic slowdown has also impacted on firms and households’ capacity to pay council charges.

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