Monday, December 31, 2012

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) A near disaster toxic cyanide saga . . . as Harare City Council dominates local authorities’ misdemeanours

A near disaster toxic cyanide saga . . . as Harare City Council dominates local authorities’ misdemeanours
Sunday, 30 December 2012 00:30
In-Depth Reporter

The year 2012 was another difficult year for the Harare City Council which dominated headlines especially when it battled a potentially disastrous toxic cyanide saga. To sum it up, the year was action packed.

The hottest saga that could have resulted in a national disaster was the delivery of toxic cyanide to Harare’s main waterworks.

About 19 tonnes of poisonous sodium cyanide could have been used at Harare’s main waterworks had alarm not been raised by an alert council employee as it was about to be offloaded.

The near-disaster resulted in the appointment of a seven member probe team.

Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Dr Ignatius Chombo tasked the team to look into the awarding of tenders relating to the purchase and importation of water treatment chemicals.

Council tenders came under the spotlight. The poison saga deepened and later spilled into the courts were the driver of the truck and the manager of the transport company were arrested.

Councillor Julius Musevenzi of ward 15 was also suspended from council due to alleged corruption in the procurement of water treatment chemicals.

Shortages of tap water for the past decade continued to frustrate millions of residents who pay rates to council for service delivery. The water shortages were the major cause of the typhoid outbreak. People have resorted to drinking water from unprotected sources.

The typhoid outbreak in Harare brings back the sad memories of the 2008 cholera outbreak that claimed thousands of lives across the country
The major issue that led to the persistent water shortages has always been lack of funding.

The Harare council came out in the open, stating that it lacks the capacity to solve the water woes largely because of the ballooning population.

Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda reported that he was dismayed by the pronouncements made by the Minister of Water Resources Management,

Mr Sipepa Nkomo that local authorities should not make residents pay for the use of the first six cubic (6 000) litres of water per month.
The Mayor noted that these comments are unfortunate as the council would lose around US$624 000 through such an initiative every month for water services.

Water problems were evident in Bulawayo with the municipality resorting to water cuts. Bulawayo council had decommissioned two of its dams while some projects continue to be at a standstill.
In Chinhoyi, service delivery still remains compromised with the town facing water problems. In Bindura, water shortages are perennial.

Harare also made headlines after the city fathers snubbed Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe’s proposal where she called upon the city to offer free maternity services Car dealers left in the cold.
Car dealers got the shock of their lives when council descended on unregistered car sales, towing away vehicles and pulling down building structures.

The exercise is still on-going. There are over 200 car sales operating in the city, but it has emerged that only 58 were approved by the council to do business in the city.

The illegal operations by the car sales have led to the city closing the valuation and licensing department and suspending all workers in the department.

The workers are facing disciplinary hearings on allegations of corruptly allocating land to the car sales.

Most of the demolished structures are along Enterprise, Mutare and Prince Edward roads.

On a positive note, Harare was commended for bringing sanity in the Central Business District by decongesting the area.

A blitz was jointly conducted by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Harare city council in a bid to restore sanity at commuter ranks.
Council recruited 80 personnel from the Municipal Traffic Police who were deployed to operate at the ranks, replacing private security companies.

Pirate taxis have since re-emerged in the CBD to fill in the gap left by the commuter omnibuses. Away from Harare, it is clear that most authorities are entering the New Year with dirty hands.

Mutare remains without a mayor after the suspension of Mayor Brian James on allegations of misconduct and misappropriation of funds.

He is alleged to have sought legal advice on a personal matter using council funds and hired a South African company KV3 to help craft council budget at a cost of US$48 000 which is against the Urban Council’s Act.

The matter is still pending before the courts Gwanda Mayor Lionel De Necker was suspended for defying ministerial directives.The MDC-T also cracked the whip on its councillors and suspended 12 councillors on allegations of corruption.

Chitungwiza was marred by strikes by both residents who were protesting against poor service delivery and workers who were bemoaning low salaries.

The workers had gone for months without salaries while residents say 87 percent of the council’s revenue should not be channelled towards remunerating the employees at the expense of service delivery.
Chitungwiza municipality has also resorted to reclaiming the beer halls that they had leased.

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