Forex only for housing means Bulawayo

The Bulawayo City Council has made available stalls in Pumula South which are sold exclusively in foreign currencies, with those interested having six months to settle payment or risk losing them.

This comes weeks after the local authority also ordered that beneficiaries of settlements whose servicing was not completed after developers abandoned the project, will have to pay for the completion of servicing using only hard currencies.

In the latest development, the local authority last week ran an advertisement for 117 Pumula South pre-sale high-density residential stalls, where payment is in foreign currency only.

The stands vary between 200 and 476 square meters. A stand of 200 square meters costs 5,400 USD, the value added tax being set at 783 USD while the deposit required is 2,673 USD.

As for the booth of 476 square meters, the total price is 10,000 USD, value added tax, 1,450 USD and the deposit required is 4,950 USD.

“Applicants will be interviewed and those who meet the program requirements will receive letters of offer on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that booths are partially serviced.

At the end of the period of six monthly payments, any non-compliant beneficiary will lose their pitch and will be reimbursed according to the municipal procedure. Beneficiaries with full cash payments will have an added benefit,” the ad reads.

Contacted for comment, the town clerk, Mr Christopher Dube defended the local authority’s decision to sell the stalls exclusively in foreign currency saying that it was necessary for residents to come to terms with the prevailing economic dynamics.

He said they were caught in a difficult situation where they had to complete the maintenance of the stands, buy the necessary equipment and also the need to settle the housing backlog.

“We have to be honest with each other, as a council, we don’t have the money to meet needs that require foreign exchange, that’s why we are targeting the diaspora market particularly.

Also, as a council, we are in desperate need of equipment to embark on further such development and to purchase this equipment there is a need for foreign currency and we had to strategize how to obtain these foreign currencies,” said Mr. Dubé.

Asked about the fate of the majority of housing seekers not earning foreign currency, Mr Dube said their hands as a local authority were tied due to the current economic situation.

“We do not discriminate against anyone but we are in a difficult situation which forces us to think outside the box. I am also not paid in foreign currency but it is something that we have to accept, it is what prevails on the ground,” Mr. Dubé said.

Meanwhile, the local authority defended the huge bills received by residents saying it reflected the current situation where the local authority had to peg bills in foreign currencies, with residents able to pay in local currency at the official exchange rate in force.

In recent weeks, residents have received high bills and some have taken to social media to express their displeasure.

A Selbourne Park resident said he was recently charged $80,000, while another Queens Park resident said he was charged $90,000.

Responding to written questions from Sunday News, the council’s head of corporate communications, Ms Nesisa Mpofu, said the bills can be considered huge, but the council has not raised US dollar rates.

“The Board did not increase the service charge but aligned the ZWL charge to its US dollar equivalent at budgeting time using the interbank rate.

This measure was taken to avoid the collapse of service delivery in the city.

ZWL service delivery costs have increased due to exchange rate fluctuations. Residents and stakeholders with questions are free to approach any Council revenue office for explanations and details of their bills.

The council’s billing system is robust,” Ms Mpofu said.

She said that for the convenience of the paying public, Revenue Hall will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

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