Vusumuzi Dube Municipal Reporter—
THE Government has reportedly threatened to cancel the $60 million Egodini terminus upgrade project in Bulawayo and order a re-tender after allegations that some senior council officials were linked to the South African company which won the tender. South African civil engineering firm Terraccotta Private Limited won the tender ahead of two other local companies to upgrade the terminus, a project that is estimated at $60 million.
Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Martin Moyo confirmed that this came after a meeting among council, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Engineer George Mlilo and Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo on Friday.
“It is unfortunate that this particular meeting was more of the Permanent Secretary telling us the perception out there and their position as a ministry, which we feel most is hearsay and has no basis at all but we weren’t given the chance to either respond or clarify our position. Yes, the Egodini tender was brought up where it was suggested that firstly, the tender period had lapsed such that we were meant to re-tender it. Secondly, it was even suggested that the Deputy Mayor (Clr Banda) is linked to this company but this was a tender that was awarded well before he came into office,” said Clr Moyo.
He said the feeling of the ministry was that council must re-tender the project.
“But we are saying we already have a contractor who wants to start working even next week, if we call for fresh tenders this will set us back a great deal, imagine waiting a further two years for the project to start, it is just not realistic but if they feel there are people who can invest more than Terracotta’s $60 million we guess we will have to give them a chance but I am worried about the time,” said Clr Moyo.
On various corruption allegations levelled against Clr Banda, the Mayor said in most cases it would be difficult to prove whether there was any wrong-doing in his conduct.
“You see, this is a complicated matter where the Permanent Secretary and Minister Moyo were dealing on perceptions and hearsay, without possessing any proof at all. To be frank all these perceptions will be difficult to prove whether there is any wrong doing on our part as a council or on the part of the Deputy Mayor himself.”
Contacted for a comment, Eng Mlilo said the meeting was mainly meant to point out the ministry’s position on a number of issues affecting Bulawayo.
“The gist of the meeting was dealing with the awarding of the tender for the rehabilitation of Egodini and the purchase of the Ascot stand by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Gift Banda. I can’t say much talk to council, they will tell you what I told them,” he said.
The upgrading of the terminus, which was initially meant to start in January 2014, has experienced a number of false starts, with both the local authority and the contracted company reportedly not committing themselves to the commencement of the project. On the issue of Clr’s Banda’s Ascot stand, Clr Moyo said the council engaged a city valuer who came up with the price and Government was free to hire an independent company to also do evaluation of the property. Clr Banda purchased the piece of land last year in May for $130 000 for the construction of town houses for middle and high income earners, a move that was met by a revolt among Bulawayo residents. This saw Affirmative Action Group taking the local authority to court calling for the Ministry of Local Government to dissolve the council.
Meanwhile, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere confirmed that his ministry was looking at corruption allegations levelled against the Deputy Mayor. The latest allegations against Clr Banda are that he was using council equipment to fix the road to his Ascot stands.
“Our duty is to rid the local authority of all corruption and ensure that residents’ hard earned money is put to good use. People have raised a lot of issues pertaining to Clr Banda therefore it is prudent that we investigate to see whether there is truth in all that. In the event that we find that indeed there is something amiss we won’t hesitate to take drastic measures on him and if possible the entire council, it is all in our powers to do this,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
Speaking in Bulawayo last week, Minister Kasukuwere bemoaned the high levels of corruption at councils countrywide saying that Government was working round the clock to weed out all corrupt elements within local authorities. He said as a ministry they were tired of councillors, especially aligned to the opposition party MDC-T hence they were tightening their monitoring regime. Two other councillors, James Sithole and Charles Moyo have also been caught in the eye of a storm after purchasing land for town houses at Parklands worth
$184 000 and $112 000 respectively. A residents body, Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association has lobbied central government to investiage the transactions.
“I know that residents are going through a torrid time at the mercy of these councillors. Truth be told we voted for criminals when we thought we were voting for people to safeguard or monies and ensure service delivery. Their corruption is evident for all to see; just look at how much they have destroyed our councils, service delivery is now at its lowest. They have stolen every piece of land within their jurisdiction for their personal profit making schemes, that is how selfish they are,” said the Minister.
He further went on to encourage Zanu-PF supporters to elect shadow councillors within their wards to monitor councillors and ensure they pressurise them into directing enough resources towards service delivery.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Provincial Minister, Cde Moyo said her office was concerned with goings on at the council.
“We are watching him (Banda) and we have already activated our systems, he will surely go down because he is not good for the city. Just last week I got a report that he is using council equipment to construct a road leading to his controversial Ascot stand. I must assure the nation that indeed we are investigating him,” said Minister Moyo.
Contacted for comment Clr Banda refuted all allegations levelled against him saying he would soon seek a meeting with Minister Moyo to explain a number of issues.
“I will soon meet up with the minister because all these allegations are now out of context. Take the Ascot stand for example, everything was done above board for me to get that stand. I was not even part of the final decision. Former councillors and mayors bought land and other properties and nothing was said, even she (Minister Moyo) has a farm which she got from the Government. Even when you talk of these tenders, it is a well-known fact that no councillor sits on the tender board, it is only management, so honestly how can I be said to be influencing tenders when I am not even part of the decision making body,” said Clr Banda.
Questioned on allegations that he was constructing a road at his Ascot property using council equipment, Clr Banda said there was no truth in that. “Ask anyone who has been to that property, there is nothing done yet within that property, the road that is being fixed there is not even on my property, it is a council road,” he said.