Furore over $144m Harare water deal

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HARARE – Harare residents groups have described the $144 million water deal as a dodgy development meant to benefit Town House managers and the Chinese government.

Precious Shumba, the Harare Residents Trust director, accused the town clerk Tendai Mahachi of keeping ratepayers in the dark about the funds extended by the Chinese Export and Import Bank for improving water delivery.

“The HRT wishes to express outrage at the arrogant attitude being displayed by Mahachi who has demonstrated reluctance to reveal the details of the deal,” Shumba said.

“Residents do not know the rate of interest the loan will accrue, and the repayment period.

“The Chinese experts will gobble a bigger chunk of the money, meaning the Chinese have created their own employment at the expense of Harare residents.

“Let this deal be revealed in full and residents must have copies of this loan agreement in order to educate each other on how they will repay it.

“Everything around the deal is being hurried before the elected councillors gain control of the council’s affairs, meaning that the town clerk is desperate to speed up engagement of people and make certain significant decisions in the absence of elected councillors, who will find it extremely difficult to reverse bad decisions.”

According to Mahachi, out of the expected 46-member Chinese team, 19 engineers are already in the country to partner the local authority’s technical team at the Morton Jaffray, Warren Control, Alex Park and Letombo pump station.

Shumba said Harare city should have taken advantage of locally available expertise if it was committed to transparency and accountability throughout the four-year project.

“Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions have churned out competent engineers and other technocrats to handle any technology,” he said.

“The suspicions that we have are that the council management handling this deal are afraid of being exposed if locals handle the equipment and other technical areas of the project, so they trust that the Chinese nationals being brought in to work on this project will keep silent.”

Tendai Muchada, the Combined Harare Residents Trust (Chra) programmes manager, said the deal was murky.

“When this decision to engage the engineers was made, this was at a time council was under the caretaker commission led by Alfred Tome, which means that there were no elected councillors to provide checks and balances to the whole deal,” Muchada said.

“It also contravenes the mantra that we have the highest literacy rate in Africa and poses as an insult to the thousands of engineers we have in Zimbabwe. This also means that the money in itself is meant to benefit the Chinese and not us Zimbabweans in any way.

“The City of Harare cannot insult us to say that the local people will provide labour at Morton Jaffery being guided by the Chinese, especially with their history of workplace abuse. We are slowly turning into a Chinese colony under the guise of aid.”

Harare paid a stipulated 10 percent pre-implementation fund. Residents’ representatives called on councillors to demand answers.

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