SOUTHERN NEWS | Residents group threatens minister

Residents group threatens minister with legal action

THE Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (Bupra) has petitioned Local government minister July Moyo, demanding that action be taken against town clerk Christopher Dube, director of engineering Simela Dube and former local government ministry permanent secretary George Mlilo over allegations of corruption in the city.

Bupra, through its legal representative — Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers — this week said they wanted an investigation on the reasons why the recommendations of the local authority’s internal audit findings of June 18, 2015 were not implemented.

The recommendations by the ministry, then headed by exiled Saviour Kasukuwere, called for Simela Dube to be charged and the dismissal of deputy mayor Gift Banda, who was reinstated late last year by the courts after he spent over a year on suspension.

“Surprisingly, Bulawayo City town clerk has failed to implement the findings of the two reports and did not even defend litigation against council by Banda and then permanent secretary Mlilo,” reads the letter in part.

The residents insisted that if the minister fails to take action on the matter, they will be forced to use the litigation route.

“We request that this corporate incest be investigated and the wrongs remedied as soon as possible, failure to which we approach the courts for declaratory orders compelling yourselves and other relevant authorities to act as per your statutory mandates,”

The residents further alleged that the mentioned officials have captured the city.

“We therefore request that you urgently investigate Mlilo, Simela Dube, Christopher Dube, Khanyisile Investments and other members of the corrupt cabal, who have captured the city of Bulawayo for their selfish profiteering schemes at the expense of service delivery,” reads the letter.

The residents have also appealed to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to investigate the matter as the graft body has continued to be flooded with corruption reports from the second largest city due to a renewed hope of tackling such activities under the new dispensation.

The latest move comes after the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) raised the dust last year on the matter. Despite their call, no action was taken by central government till to date.

Backing the latest move, AAG regional president Reginald Shoko said: “When the organisation started talking about these issues around corporate governance troubles at the local authority, some dismissed us as being after certain individuals and playing politics but as has been observed, it’s actually challenges that need to be looked into by the relevant authorities.  Corruption must be dealt with without favour.”

The residents, in their letter, noted that they were concerned that Mlilo did not defend Banda’s litigation in exchange for mining claims, which were given to him at a meeting chaired by Banda and his subordinates.

Town clerk Dube, through his company Belmac Investments, was last year awarded mining claims located in the council-owned Aisleby Farm where he shares the claim with BDP Investments.

However, mayor Martin Moyo — who was also shortlisted — lost out to Mlilo and Mngane Ncube, who jointly won the claims at Good Hope Farm.

The letter further reads: “In the same meeting the town clerk, Dube was awarded mining claims by the same cabal in clear abuse of corporate governance principles.”

The allegations raised against Dube, Mlilo and Simela by the residents comes as Local Government minister Moyo is expected to pay a visit to the second largest city this Friday for the first time since he was appointed to head the ministry.

The letter further alleges that Dube could not be charged on the basis that he is related to the former permanent secretary who was then rewarded by being given a mining claim in the city.

 

Zesa, BCC relations worsen

ZESA Holdings (Zesa) owes the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) over $119 million after it emerged this week that the power utility has not been paying royalties for the past 10 years to BCC for the use of its power station.

According to an agreement between the power utility and the local authority, the former is supposed to pay $860 284 in royalty charges to the latter on a monthly basis for the use of the power infrastructure.

The council used to run the power station for electricity generation until in the late 1990’s when the government gave a directive for all council-owned power stations to be handed over to Zesa.

Before the takeover council, which owns the power station, used to supply electricity to the second largest city.

However, with the latest haggle over bills between the council and the power utility, the latter has declined to pay the arrears instead preferring to leave it to the courts to decide.

Council chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou gave an insight into the squabble that has for years left the two’s relations strained.

“The agreement was that Zesa would pay royalties because they were using our structures. There was a formula that was being used to calculate the royalties, depending on the sales of electricity,” she said.

Zhou added: “There was a time when electricity used to be expensive in the city because Zesa would add royalty charges on top of the money they sent to council.
However, a new reasonable formula was then agreed that people should pay similar rates while Zesa continued to pay its royalties to council for using our structures.”

She said while Zesa continued paying the royalties consistently, they only stopped in 2008 due to hyperinflation that hit the country then as it became difficult to make monthly calculations for the royalties.

“They paid that until 2008. Due to inflation and with those inconsistent multiple zeros attached to our money then, it ended up confusing so they stopped paying.
However, in 2009 we went back for our royalties and told them that they should continue paying since there was a steady currency but since then we have never received any cent from them.”

This comes at a time the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) recently announced that it shut down the power station due to electricity oversupply in the country. Bulawayo power station has a capacity to produce 90 megawatts.

In 2016, Zesa — through its subsidiary the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company — approached the High Court seeking an order compelling BCC to settle its $80m power debt. However, in response, BCC filed a counter claim as they felt that Zesa in fact owed them more.

According to the latest council minutes BCC owes Zesa over $94m in unpaid electricity bills. However citing the disparities, BCC has been trying to enter into an offset deal with Zesa but the power utility has always argued it does not owe BCC any amount, hence, it would not enter into a deal with the local authority.

BCC insists that Zesa owes them huge amounts. “We charge royalty for the electricity infrastructure that Zesa uses. As a result, Zesa owes us more than we owe them; the matter is still before the courts,” Zhou claimed.

 

Bulawayo finally secures cremator

THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has finally secured the release of a cremator that had for a long time been held in Durban, South Africa owing to contractual glitches.

BCC chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou said they finally managed to meet the storage costs, in the process facilitating its release.

“The cremator has reached the South African port but the contractor had failed to pay for its release from the storage facilities,” Zhou said.

“We are engaged with his lawyers and the people who are holding it and we made the payment last week to the South African warehouse.

“We took time to raise the foreign currency as you are aware how difficult it is to raise foreign currency. So we’re now waiting for them to transport it to Zimbabwe and have it installed,” she said.

While she did not reveal how much was paid for its release, previous council minutes indicate that town clerk Christopher Dube had submitted a report to council seeking authority to pay R120 000 to the South African Revenue Authority as clearance costs to facilitate the release of the cremator.

The city has only one cremator situated at West Park Cemetery.

There has been a low uptake of cremation despite the local authority encouraging its residents to take up the idea as a substitute to conventional burial in a bid to mitigate the dwindling of burial space in the city.

On average, the monthly rate of cremation stands at 12 and the majority being the Hindu who culturally and religiously believe in cremation.

Initially, council had paid the contractor $97 120 as a deposit for the cremator before the contractor later failed to pay the clearance costs.

After realising that chances of recovering these funds were very slim and in order to mitigate the loss, council decided to take over the contract from Durban to Zimbabwe, including the installation.

“We weighed our losses in terms of abandoning it or let the contractor bring it at his own time or we take over the contract and bring it on our own then we subtract the money we would have used.

“We realised that it may be more expensive than the original contract but we felt it was better than losing altogether what we had already started,” Zhou said.

She, however, promised residents that cremation services will soon be back to normal although she did nt give the time frame.

For cremation, an adult resident of the city is charged $63 if cremation is conducted during the week while for weekends and holidays the charge rises to $72.

However, non-residents are charged at different percentages of citizen’s rates depending on the day of cremation but the average is $95.

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