'City Fathers abused $144m bank loan'

HARARE - Residents have argued that maladministration of the $144 million China Exim Bank loan to refurbish Morton Jaffray water treatment works is the cause of all the water woes in Harare.

Residents Forum coordinator Denford Ngadziore told the Daily News on Sunday that had most of the money not been abused, some of the water problems being experienced would be a thing of the past.

This comes as Local Government ministry permanent secretary George Magosvongwe said Harare should deal with the water issue since it was its obligation.

“The China loan was administered through an offshore account as agreed by the Finance ministry. It is misleading on part of the minister to expect clean water improvement in 2017 from council based on a 2012 loan which part of the money was abused. It is on record that the loan was signed and agreed when council had been dissolved pending the 2013 elections.

“Part of the money was abused by city council management who bought themselves vehicles and this was part of the reason for the sacking of former town clerk Tendai Mahachi. An audit conducted between June and July 2013, which was commissioned by councillors and presided over by the late deputy mayor Thomas Muzuva showed evidence of corruption on construction of three warehouses,” Ngadziore said.

He added that the issue of water in Harare should also not lie solely on treating but also preserving the sources which are wetlands.

Ngadziore added that the city and the Environmental Management Authority should work together and ensure the preservation of wetlands by not allowing developments on them.

Harare Residents Trust (HRT) said they have long concluded that council does not have the capacity to treat, distribute and maintain an efficient and effective water delivery system.

HRT said residents who are failing to access municipal water have now resorted to drinking from shallow wells, community boreholes and private boreholes, thereby exposing them to waterborne diseases.

They argue that failure by council to provide water is also due to misplaced priorities by the city which puts payment of hefty salaries ahead of service delivery.

“The HRT recommends that the City of Harare improves its quality of water by firstly prioritising ring fencing the Water Account to protect it against its continued abuse by the Finance Manager and the City Treasury who are diverting funds for other purposes other than addressing water issues.

“The city has all the needed resources to provide clean and potable water but the bulk of the resources continue to fund the extravagant lifestyles of senior council managers,” the pressure group said.

According to the latest council minutes, the city is yet to receive the last disbursement of the loan amounting to $72 million to complete the works which had been scheduled for December 2017.

Currently the city is pumping 520 megalitres of water daily to the residents against a demand of more than 800 megalitres.

Before the Chinese-funded loan, MJ which was constructed in 1957 whose design was meant to cater for 350 000 people last had an upgrade in 1994 to supply water to 1,5 million people.

With the growing population of Harare, the city also has to contend with supplying residents in Chitungwiza, Epworth, Ruwa and Norton — all with a combined population of more than three million.

Due to obsolete infrastructure and lack of maintenance, Harare loses 65 percent of all the treated water to bursts, illegal connections and leakages.