By Richard Shumba
Gweru’s popular shopping complex, Bahadur Centre is under lock and key after the City of Gweru instructed its officers to close shops over non-payment of operational fees running into millions of dollars.
This reporter on Tuesday witnessed council officers closing more than 40 shops with some retail owners trying to bribe them but they were in a no-nonsense mood.
Bahadur Centre is estimated to be owing council more than 60 million Zimbabwean dollars in arrears.
There was tension at the centre as council workers with chains and locks were closing down shop after shop despite some showing evidence that they paid their share of the required amount.
“We have been paying our operational costs through the estate agent (name supplied) and we are surprised to hear that we are in arrears which has seriously inconvenienced us,” said a cell phone dealer at the centre.
According to the billing statement for one tenant, the estate agent is charging around ZWL $ 1 million monthly per shop towards water, owner’s rates, and other council service charges.
“This is madness, how can they charge us so much and forcefully close our shops, resulting in us losing a day’s work in business because now our clients cannot enter our premises,” said another shop owner.
City of Gweru Public Relations Officer Vimbai Chingwaramusee, however, said that the shops that were locked up were failing to be compliant in paying bills.
“We have been closing shops in town especially those businesses that owe us a lot of money and have outstanding rates that need to be paid and we have been communicating with them, But unfortunately, they were not willing to come and make payment plans with us. We encourage the business community in Gweru to make sure that they pay their bills so that they operate legally and we are also not happy that certain businesses have shut down by council because they are not able to pay bills,” she said. #The Sun