Mayor looks to revive efficient public transport system

HARARE - Our staff writer Blessings Mashaya speaks to Harare mayor Herbert Gomba about his plans for the capital city. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Can you give us the time-frame in which the Harare City Council (HCC) and government would contain cholera?
A: It’s not about time-frame, it’s basically about making sure that our intervention works within the possible shortest time.
What we have done is that we have availed the necessary instruments for us to be able to get rid of the disease.
Looking at the current statistics, the numbers are going down, so we hope through our intervention sooner rather than later, we are going to get rid of that disease.

Q: So far there have been more than 30 deaths and 7 000 cases of cholera, what have you done to curb the spread of cholera?
A: We have actually treated around 7 000 people. We availed the necessary facilities; we have opened up treatment centres, one at Glen View 1, Beatrice and Budiriro. Beyond opening up treatment centres, we have de-commissioned unsafe water infrastructures that our people are getting water from.
We have also moved fast to make sure that we consistently supply water to the suburbs and water of good quality and the amount of chlorine that it must have in terms of World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
We have also refurbished of our infrastructure.
Our teams were deployed to look at sewer systems, repairing it and also making sure that water bowsers and water tanks are available for people to be able to get water.

Q: Recently Econet Wireless, which gave you $10 million to curb cholera, was not happy with the inflation of prices by council workers. How much damage was done by this? What measures have you taken to
assure Econet?
A: It’s not necessarily about the quantum of the damage, but the reaction we undertook to address the issues that were raised.
From your own assessment, you agree with me that four people were suspended and an investigation is underway.
Those people will be taken to disciplinary committee, which then certifies whether they are wrong or right in terms of what they did.
In terms of what happened, as council, we feel that those things must not happen and the necessary systems are being put in place, the investigation committee will be set up to look at our procurement systems.
The thing was made worse by the fact that government legislated policy-makers out of procurement system.
They left it to the accounting officer who then has the mandate to procure. We are now coming in to say we are out of the system but we need to put up checks and balances in order to make sure that council does not lose revenue through unnecessary leakages meant to defraud the council.

Q: Are you considering reporting this matter to the police since it’s a criminal case?
A: We have chosen to follow the dictates of the Labour Act because we are dealing with a worker-employer relationship. I understand that there are some NGOs who are now taking the matter to the police.      

Q: HCC seemingly does not have enough money in its coffers to replace old infrastructure. When do you hope to get the money to deal with the issue of infrastructure?
A: The first thing for us is not necessary to be asking to get more money but is also about using internal resources at the same time asking people out there to assist with more money.
We have written to the central government seeking for more funds.
We have also gone out to look for funds from relevant stakeholders.

Q: We have heard of the Kunzvi project for so long. What has been the major problem affecting the commencement of this project?
A: You need to understand that the sources that you talking about are not owned by the City of Harare but they are owned by government. It’s up to government to speed up the construction of those dams. 
If they were owned by City of Harare, we could have put measures to fast-track the construction of those dams but because it is owned by the government, we cannot then go out and do our activities on something that we don’t own.
What we should be doing is to consistently knock on government doors to say, “please, can you work on this as soon as possible?”

Q: How much does HCC need to have reliable and safe water in the long term?
A: In the long-term, it’s about government providing water from Kunzvi and Musami. Ourselves, we are looking on de-polluting of the water sources that we have, that is Lake Chivero, through the construction of sewer treatment ponds that ensures that we produce around 300 megalitres.
We are looking to make sure that the Chinese proceed to give us the balance from that $144 million.
This can enable us to refurbish our plant to make sure that water coming from Morton Jaffray is clean.
Beyond that, we are looking at the distribution system, removal and putting up new infrastructure going to the house, quantifying that.
I think my engineers are looking at the whole total package of around $500 million.

Q: You talked about the Chinese loan. It seems HCC abused that money. How much is left from China?
A: $72 million, this is a material-based deal, it’s not liquid money coming our way and its central government-guaranteed and it is consistently audited.
It’s just people misinforming people. The Chinese brought material worth $72 million and they need to bring the other balance.

Q: Service delivery has always been undermined by HCC, with heavy spending on salaries. What are you doing about this?
A: There are measures being undertaken. You need to follow the Labour Act in terms of dealing with the issue you are referring to.
First of all, the employment council of Harare could not agree on the reduction of certain allowances on the total package of council employees.
So, the matter then has been taken for arbitration at the Arbitration Court, it’s there and if not dealt with, appeals can be done to Labour Court until it reaches the Supreme Court.

Q: What plans do you have to improve service delivery?
A: We have launched our 100-day work plan which will see us looking at the infrastructure, repairing, reconstruction of roads, repairing of our electric infrastructures.
I am going to be writing to the private owners around the city for them to be able to refurbish and repaint some of their properties in the CBD.
We have got a by-law that enjoins us to do that. If not, then we look if we should provide the owner with the licence or not. We are also looking at pavements and our drains.
We are going to put up new pavements. We are talking to numerous companies to adopt certain roads for consistent attention on them. These are some of the things we are planning to do.
We are also intending on introducing a new bus system and ultimately see us reverting back to that time we were using Harare United omnibus companies, we have made certain agreements.
We are also looking at creating value for the city. We want to come out with companies that generate revenue for the city.
I was looking at our sewer infrastructure, we can come up with organic fertiliser that we sell to government and Command Agriculture and different people.
We also want to come out with a company that will generate energy from waste. We want to replace the old thinking of Rufaro Marketing ideas with new ideas.

Q: HCC and government have joined hands to drive out vendors from CBD, yet you have not completed building the new places for their relocation. Why?
A:  I need to be sure that Harare City Council was heavily involved on that one and beyond that, I will not be able to make a comment. Certainly, we were not heavily involved.

Q: When are you going to restore order in the streets in as far as mushika-shikas and kombis are concerned?
A: We are working around the clock to make sure that we bring in convectional buses and that will restore order because you don’t restore order at the time you have shortages in terms of alternatives.

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