Harare water crisis worsens

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MOSES MATENGA

Harare is faced with a serious water crisis with the local authority saying there is only a few days’ supply of chemicals left and it is banking on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to get foreign currency to import more chemicals from China and South Africa.

This comes as President Emmer­son Mnangagwa’s government has taken keen interest in the disburse­ment of funds to the Harare City Council following revelations dur­ing a meeting between the President and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jin­ping, that a $144m loan facility ad­vanced by China to Zimbabwe has been abused.

The Chinese leader is said to have expressed displeasure to Mnangagwa that the loan was abused by govern­ment and council officials. So far, only $72m has been released by the Chinese government, out of the promised $144 million.

Yet, according to City Council, its current water production “is very de­pressed. We are managing only 100 million litres against a daily average of 450 million litres. Our available stocks of chlorine gas can only last us for two days.”

This means the local authority only has chlorine gas to last until to­day (Thursday).

According to the Council, the RBZ has promised to release an initial US$150,000 for the impor­tation of chlorine gas. The Council uses a tonne of the chemical daily, and needs US$3m every month for the purchase of water purification chemicals.

“The other chemicals we use are activated carbon for removing odours, alum sulphate and sodium silicate for removing solid particles, lime for pH regulation, sulphiric acid to reduce pH, HTH for remov­ing algae and ammonia for chlorine retention in the reticulation system,” the Council says. Stocks of all these chemicals are also low.

The City Council has for long been banking on the Kunzvi dam to improve its water supply, but the project has remained a pipe dream.

President Mnangagwa heard from his Chinese counterpart that senior Harare Council officials, ostensibly with the blessings of the former Lo­cal Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, had bought luxurious vehicles instead of channelling the money into its intended business.

Mayor Herbert Gomba said the local authority was banking on the government to act so that China avails the remainder of the $144m.

“It’s true that vehicles worth $2m were bought, as that was what the then executives led by Dr Tendai Mahachi said were needed as project vehicles,” Gomba said.

Council officials bought Discov­ery 4 vehicles, Amarok VWs, and Mazda BT50s, arguing that they were service vehicles for the project. Officials say 21 project vehicles and 35 utility vehicles were bought using the funds. But the vehicles were giv­en to some officials who had nothing to do with the project.

Gomba said: “The matter was in­vestigated by the Council, led by the late Deputy Mayor Thomas Muzuva and revealed information pointing to the irrational and irregular pay­ment of the vehicles. This led to the suspension of Dr Mahachi who was later reinstated by the Ministry of Local Government.

“We welcome any investigation that may be undertaken, but the re­sults are the same that the Ministry of Local Government as it was then had a hand in the procurement of the vehicles and the matter of im­punity which later prevented further action.”

The City Council is supposed to be pumping water to more than 4 million residents within the Greater Harare area but has been facing mul­tifaceted problems.

So far, the Prince Edward water treatment plant has been decommis­sioned while work has also stalled at the Morton Jaffray water works.

The Council is also losing about 60% of treated water to leakages, a situation that officials say could only be addressed if the Council com­pletes the upgrading  of the Morton Jaffray water works