The Sunday News
Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
A NUMBER of Zimbabweans, who are in need of borehole drilling services are made to pay exorbitant charges in foreign currency or give away livestock by a cartel of companies suspected to be of foreign origin with some operating illegally.
Costs for borehole services in the country have soared during the last 10 years, with virtually all companies quoting their charges in United States Dollars with the cheapest drill being over US$2 000 for a 40metre hole.
But, upon payment, clients either get mediocre service or none at all from some companies at the centre of the scam. The small league of companies that have surfaced in the water provision service sector are said to be bringing machinery from as far as Zambia and have attracted the ire of local companies as they go to lengths on asking for payments in form of cattle and other livestock.
Local businesses claim that there are companies that smuggle drilling rigs and other machinery. Upon entry to the country, the companies allegedly illegally acquire temporal work permits and use local agents as front runners.
Sunday News Business established that there was a worrying increase in the number of companies purportedly rendering borehole drilling service of late. Authorities in some towns have pulled down some posters and advertisements after receiving complaints from the public.
A source who is privy to how borehole companies operate said the industry has received complaints from the public over poor service from some companies.
“While we do not have powers to stop them, we are concerned that there are companies that are illegal and strongly suspect they are from Zambia. As an industry made up of registered tax paying businesspeople we cannot accept what is happening on the ground. It paints a bad picture,” said one borehole company executive who preferred to be unnamed.
One Zimbabwean based in the diaspora who was yet to get her borehole drilled, two months after paying over R50 000 to one company told of her agony.
In an interview from her base in South Africa, Mrs Mary Mantola said she was given flimsy excuses by the company which is contracted to drill a borehole at her farm in Nkayi.
In an invoice, seen by this paper, a sum of R54 000 was paid to the company for borehole drilling and casing.
“I paid close to R54 000 and they have not arrived at my farm. They keep on begging for more time saying their machines are down.”
This reporter made a call to one representative of the company who professed ignorance about the issue. However, as of last Friday, the company had asked the client for more time and promised to drill by the weekend, but nothing had happened by the time of going to press.
A series of company searches showed that another operator that claimed to have offices within the Bulawayo Central Business District was non-existent.
Villagers from Umguza, Insuza, Nkayi, Lupane and Binga told of mistreatment they received from some borehole drilling companies.
“They do not pick up their phones when try to reach them to ask them when they are to come and finish the job. It is frustrating. How are they allowed to operate? I was made to believe they will come to the site and drill a borehole at my homestead but it was all a lie,” said a grieved Mr Mthandazo Tshuma of Dakamela Village in Nkayi.
In Bulawayo a number of cases have been reported to the police. Bulawayo Provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said:
“We are investigating cases of companies reported to have duped several people of thousands of dollars, after saying they would drill boreholes.”