HCC cancels French firm's water deal

HARARE - The Harare City Council (HCC) has rescinded a multi-million dollar water deal with French firm Veolia Africa (Veolia) after an alert alleging the company has a dodgy track record of bad service and inflated prices.

In 2016, the local authority and Veolia entered into negotiations pending the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement to restructure and rehabilitate Harare’s water and waste installations and networks.

According to HCC’s environmental committee minutes, the deal would also entail acquisition of new assets, management and operations for the rehabilitation that was meant to reduce physical leakages.

“A letter was received from the Office of the President and Cabinet through the ministry of Local Government wherein Zimbabwe’s ambassador to France Rudo Chitiga had alerted government on negative sentiments in the world over Veolia Africa’s capacity and inefficiency in managing water in Paris, resulting in the company’s contract being withdrawn for inefficiency and overcharging. In other countries it had led to riots,” acting chamber secretary Charles Kandemiri said.

Veolia expressed interest in investing in Harare’s water last year after noticing the congestion that the city’s system was facing due to an increased population and obsolete infrastructure.

The company’s business development director met up with mayor Bernard Manyenyeni to evaluate the current system and draw up proposals that could ease the water problems.

According to international human rights organisation, Global Exchange, it noted that Veolia is the largest private water service company in the world, providing 95 million people with drinking water and 68 million people with sewer service but has a track record of bad service, high prices, privatising water while also conducting operations in Israel.

“Veolia operates bus lines through the occupied West Bank, thus connecting illegal settlements to Israel. The buses do not make stops in any Palestinian towns and use Israeli occupied roads which have taken land from Palestinian towns and villages and have restricted passage for Palestinians between their communities.

“A 2008 investigation by the French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir found Veolia overcharged Syndicat des Eaux d’Ile de France (SEDIF) 80 to 90 million euros. Based on these overcharged costs, many municipalities in the US have not renewed their contracts with Veolia in order to improve service at a better deal. Many cities, including Burley, Idaho, have spent thousands of dollars repairing Veolia’s poorly constructed treatment plants. Even in its founding city, Paris, Veolia lost its water management deal at the end of 2009,” Global Exchange said.

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