Harare councillors have vowed to stop the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA) in their bid to take over the business of parking fees. The councillors say ZINARA’s interest is not based on service delivery but financial rewards.
Ward 18 councillor Rusty Markham believes ZINARA cannot be entrusted with the City’s parking business, pointing out that the authority has been unable to remit any contributions to the municipality in the preceding years. “Bringing in ZINARA will be a great mistake,” says Markham. Markham says ZINARA was supposed to have handed over 9 million dollars to council as part of its remittance of licence fees, but to date the road authority has been unable to remit anything.
Ward 46 councillor Charity Bango says it’s worrying that council’s businesses are being taken over, leaving the municipality with fewer options to finance critical services. “These business partners enter agreements with council promising to share the proceeds but later renege.” She noted that council has always managed its parking business since the ’60s, when it constructed parkades like the Rezende Street and Samora Machel facilities.
Councillor Anthony Shingadeya, Mbare ward 11, stated that businesses like city parking are supposed to help council fund services like road repairs and streetlights, but council has been failing to provide these, claiming that funds are not available. Shingadeya said corruption and short changing by partners has been the major problem. “There is need to have credible and trustworthy partners to do business with. Since the formation of Easipark four years ago, council has only realised $775 555 in dividends – a pittance, and far less than what Harare used to get when it managed the parking bays without Easipark.”
The ZINARA/CoH fallout comes after Easipark Harare failed to declare dividends to council which led council to take over sole operation of the parking business in September 2013. Easipark was a joint venture formed in 2009 through an agreement between City of Harare (CoH) and Easihold Proprietary Limited of South Africa. However, endless squabbles have characterised the deal, leading to councillors pushing for its cancellation, arguing that the City was not benefitting from the arrangement. Some media reports alleged that at least $1.2 million has been siphoned off from the Easipark company accounts, while CoH claims to have received no dividends since August 2010.
In recent meetings council has resolved that that parking fees should be retained as council business. ZINARA was asked to respond in June 2014 but their reply is still pending. ZINARA has refuted the charge by councillors that it has not been remitting funds in time. It says $16 million was released to councils throughout the country in the first quarter of 2015.