For some reason, I am yet to fathom it seems like the authorities in Zimbabwe, be they council or national authorities, seem to often prefer threats and intimidation when it comes to getting whatever it is they want. Rather than using incentives we often see municipal and national police unleashed on residents in order to force compliance. If you have ever parked a car or operated a business in Harare’s CBD you probably know what I am talking about. It’s all clamping, spikes and fines. It seems the Harare City Council is taking a break from that though.

Recently they launched a promotion in which they will be giving $200 ZWL free airtime to the first 2000 residents who will pay their council bills using their Econet platform. If you also want to be part of the promotion all you need to do is Dial *151*2*7*7#. You will then be asked to enter your account number and the amount you want to pay. Once you have paid the “online” system will credit our council account within the hour and if you will get your free airtime.

The stick is not working time for the carrot

It would seem that the stick is not working as well as the council probably hoped. Last week, for example, the Harare City Council reached for the nuclear button. They announced that residents had to pay up their rate arrears or the council would be forced to convert that ZWL into the USD debt. You see, most people figure that they don’t have to pay anything now. They just have to wait a bit until the ZWL loses so much value against the USD and all they need to do is convert a few USD after a couple of months and they will be able to clear their debts. If the city council converts these debts to USD it means that people will not able to take advantage of that loophole. There was a lot of howling after this measure was announced but it’s not clear how many people took the bite.

In fact, the threat to convert legacy debts into USD is but one of the many stick measures the council has tried to use to induce residents to pay what they owe. A week ago they issued about 10 000 summons to defaulting residents warning them that legal action would be instituted against those residents who owed the council. Again it doesn’t seem like residents were moved by this. The council is probably hoping a soft approach will yield better results.