Vusumuzi Dube Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has clashed with its former executive mayor Mr Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube over a $25 000 debt, with the latter writing to the local authority requesting that the debt be written off and rentals at a council farm be reduced because he is “financially crippled”. Mr Ndabeni-Ncube has reportedly been struggling to pay rentals for a farm which was leased to him since his tenure in office for purposes of feeding his cattle in 2000. Since 2009, Mr Ndabeni-Ncube has only managed to pay $1 280 to council and the arrears have accumulated to US$25 565,31.
According to the latest council report, BCC rejected the former mayor’s bid to have the debt for his Inyankuni Dam Farm, reserved for grazing land, written off and the US$345 per month rentals reduced and instead be charged a “special rental price”.
“The city valuer pegged rent at US$345 per month since 2009 for Lot 84 Esigodini Road for use as grazing land by Mr Ndabeni-Ncube. I doubt very much if Mr Ndabeni-Ncube was ever serious in meeting his rental obligations. Since 2009 only US$1 280 was paid towards the rent account representing 35 months rentals and the arrears have accumulated to US$25 565,31 as at today’s date. He should not have waited until now to complain about the high rent.
“I would suggest however, that the city valuer revisit the rental charge with a view to reducing it. My department would then recalculate the charges and reverse the resulting overcharge on condition that the recalculated rent is paid in full. That in my view would be ideal rather than writing off the full outstanding balance,” said the financial director, Mr Kimpton Ndimande.
The director of engineering services, Engineer Simela Dube noted that the reasons raised by the former executive mayor dated back to 2000 when he was still in office and had to be dealt with and concluded at that time.
“The rental for the farm should have been settled at that time based on the number of cattle, area of farm, condition of veld and other infrastructural issues like fencing, the losses of animals due to illegal activities on the farm should be reported timeously and this could have solicited sympathy from council on the issue of rentals.
“The esteemed former executive mayor should base his request not on arbitrary information but rather on a year to year tabulation of losses and gains that he derived from grazing the cattle on the land. It is appreciated that paying a rental of US$345 per month for grazing 31 head of cattle is not tenable,” said Eng Dube.
The former executive mayor was allocated Lot 84 Essexvale Estate along Esigodini road measuring 1 200 hectares for grazing purposes at the then rate of Z$50 per livestock unit payable monthly in advance in the year 2000.
The contract was reviewed in 2001 with the lease extended for five years at a rate of Z$20 per livestock unit per month. The lease was further reviewed in 2009 with rentals pegged at US$345 per month.
In his letter to the local authority, Mr Ndabeni-Ncube notes that the lot now has no fence to protect it hence illegal grazing was rampant, which had also resulted in him losing 43 cattle alleging villagers who illegally grazed their cattle in the lot would also smuggle out his own herd.
“Illegal gold panners have also made the place dangerous for my cattle with open pits all over the place. I lost 15 cattle as they fell into these open and dangerous pits, especially when the grass was tall and thick. Just last month I lost a steer which rotted completely in the pit.
“Altogether I lost a total of 58 cattle due to theft and dangerous terrain caused by illegal gold panning at the farm. At one time I had a herd of 93 cattle at the farm and now I have only 31 cattle. I must state it categorically clear that on my part it was not wise, certainly not correct and indeed not right and prudent for me to abdicate my responsibility to pay whatsoever dues, even if council had not responded to my request based on the conditions at the farm,” wrote the former executive mayor.
On his request for a “special rental price” Mr Ndabeni-Ncube noted that he was “financially very low” and “crippled”.
“I am financially very low and crippled currently and hence my very humble appeal and request to the Bulawayo City Council for reprieve purely on humanitarian basis and considerations. I repeat a very humble appeal and request.
“A further request if council could reduce the rental price figure for grazing my cattle at the farm and again make ease on my financial standing. Just a request, perhaps for a special rental price,” he said.
Mr Ndabeni-Ncube was mayor between 2000 and 2008. He serves as a commissioner in the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission where he chairs the thematic working group on socio-economic and cultural rights.