The Chitungwiza Municipality is threatening residents who have outstanding municipal rates accounts with legal action by sending notices of legal demand. The ‘notices of legal demand’ seen by Chitownews begin by reminding the affected homeowners ‘that your account has remained in serious arrears’. They proceed to inform defaulting residens that ‘ the credit control section has been instructed to institute legal proceedings against you”.
The legal demand notices go on to say that CM will issue a summons against you (affected defaulting ratepayer)at Chitungwiza Magistrates court. The notices inform the defaulting ratepayer that – ‘ If you do not repond to the summons a default judgement will be applied for by the municipality, thereafter your property will be liable for sale to recover the debt“.
Chitungwiza Progressive residents Association (CHIPRA) director Admire Zaya said; “The belligerent tone of the letters insinuates that ‘if payment is not received in fourteen days’ CM will issue summons against a defaulting resident and the magistrate will automatically rule that the affected person’s property be attached! This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and an abuse of the legal process since residents can respond by entering a plea to defend the civil action have their day in court against the CM who are claiming outrageous amounts for services not poor and erratic services”. He thundered.
The strong legal language and ambigious wording has understandly ignited ‘ an epidemic of nervous conditions’ as economically-challenged residents fret over the threat of losing property painfully accumulated over a lifetime. Chitownews interviewed one affect homeowner – Esther Makurumidze- a widowed grandmother who accomodates five orphaned grandchildren at her house in Zengeza 3 Extension.
” I bought my house in 1993 and it has been my only home ever since! how can the Municipality threaten to evict me for failing to pay for water they did not deliver! I am angry and my blood pressure if rising! I suffer from arthritis and I cannot even meet my hospital bills now they are threatening to throw me out- If i could see Machona ……. I don’t know what will happen?”. She fumed. Machona is the CM’s Finance Director who signed the legal demand notices on behalf of the town clerk.
The Chitungwiza Community Development Network (CCDN)- a community based organisation working in Chitungwiza represented by its Coordinator- Mr. Eddington Shayanewako called on the local authority to be ‘sensitive and intiate dialogue with defaulting residents in an effort to find a common position rather than risk confrontation with vulnerable social groups’. Speaking to Chitownews after touring and meeting affected residents in Manyame park, Zengeza 5 Extension and Zengeza 3 Extension- Shayanewako “deplored the move to sue residents saying Decision-makers at CM must consider the mounting economic crisis in Zimbabwe and how it withered household incomes leaving many families food insecure”.
Chitownews has established that the notices of legal demand have been issued to thousands on homeowners across the town with the eldery, pensioners, the unemployed youths, orphans and single-parent households mostly affected. There has been a conspicous rise in cases of the Messenger of court attaching household property of defaulting ratepayers in Chitungwiza