Bulawayo Mayor bares all on corruption and water crisis

29 Nov, 2020 - 00:11 0 Views
Bulawayo Mayor bares all on corruption and water crisis Councillor Solomon Mguni

The Sunday News

Vincent Gono, Features Editor
BULAWAYO is the country’s second largest city. It used to be the country’s industrial hub before it was caught in the economic meltdown that left it a mere shadow of its former glorious self where both natural, economic and political factors conspired to bring the once thriving Southern African industrial city down to its knees.

It was a city that was so full of life where smoke could be seen being released into space as one approaches the city from any direction, a sign of the industry that never went to sleep.

It was strategically positioned to supply much of its products to the regional markets through a vibrant rail and road transport system, something that explains why the country’s only railway company NRZ was headquartered in Bulawayo.

It being in the natural ecological Region Five where there is no much rainfall for intensive crop production, Bulawayo and its surrounding environs became an area well known for cattle ranching where meat and its products were fairly cheap and of the highest quality.

The country and specifically Bulawayo became a net exporter of the best grade of beef to the European Union countries and even the Americas earning the country the much-needed foreign currency and it further explains the state-of-the-art abattoir at the Cold Storage Company (CSC) whose headquarters were also in the city.

The long and short of it all is to say the city had the capacity to sustain itself as it had an overwhelming investment potential. It needed no deliberate policy to provide a red carpet to investors as they were easily attracted by the market, its unique business ambience and the lack of red tape that provided an easy and ready environment of doing business.

That was then, when the city was surely the King and Queen’s palace, and the moniker City of Kings and Queens was fitting. Now with perennial water shortages, sewer bursts that have become commonplace, unkempt environs, unfenced cemeteries and dirty alleyways, life in the city has become abnormal and so are the circumstances.

Features Editor Vincent Gono sent questions to the city Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni on a number of issues chief among them the water issue, reports of corruption and the politics in his party that has seen some councillors being recalled.

Although some of the questions like the lack of activity on the Egodini project were not responded to while he chose to be mum on the political side of things in the party, what was clear was that the problems bedevilling the city were beyond party politics, they need the intervention of the Central Government without which it will remain a city whose glory belongs to the past.

On water, two (Insiza and Mtshabezi) out of three of Bulawayo’s remaining water supply dams will no longer be able to supply water to the city in the coming months if there are no significant rains to replenish the city’s six supply dams. Only Inyankuni can go up to 2023. The other three have long been decommissioned.

V.G : Your Council has been blamed for failure to invest in bulk water storage and delivery system that has led to water shortages over the years? What permanent measures are being put in place to overcome the challenge of water shortage – the Matobo Aquifer, is it being pursued?

Cllr Mguni : According to the Zimbabwe Water Act [1996] and the National Water Policy, the prerogative for the provision of raw water (bulk water storage) lies with the Government of Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. You may also wish to engage them further on proposed bulk water supply for the City of Bulawayo.

For the existing water supply the City of Bulawayo has made proposals to government for short term, medium term and long-term solutions to increase raw water availability to the City (below);
Immediate Interventions

Short Term Interventions
It should be noted that these projects are medium to long term. In the long term, the completion of the Gwayi – Shangani Dam should ease the City’s water challenges and thereafter the completion of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water project.

V.G : Supposing there are no rains to replenish the City’s supply dams up to December, how will the water situation be like in Bulawayo?

Cllr Mguni : The Dam Depletion figures as at Friday, 6 November 2020.

V.G : How has the problem of water affected Bulawayo in its industrial development and as an investment destination of choice?

Cllr Mguni : The current water challenges have been bedeviling the city due to the poor rainfall over the past three rain seasons.

Despite these challenges, the city has been trying to balance the water supply challenges for the residential, commerce and industry with priority being given to commerce and industry. The Water Act, Part V, Section 61 – however states that if a catchment (inclusive of the City of Bulawayo) is declared a water shortage area; it means that the city will be empowered to prioritise water supply for primary use only – which is human consumption at the expense of commercial and industrial demands.

However, Council considered the matter widely in view of the negative impact it would have on the operations of commerce and industry in Bulawayo and possibilities of de-industrialisation in the city. In that regard, in order to minimise loss of jobs due to closure or relocation of industries, council resolved not to shed industries and the central business district.

While the city has been facing these challenges, on 10 January and 12 March, 2020 Council wrote to the Ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Climate Change and Rural Development and also to the Local Government and Public Works respectively, requesting for it to be declared a water shortage area. Previous Council reports dating back to February 2019 and other letters in 2019 had already started notifying of the impending water crisis in the city by then. In consultation with the city, government agreed on the development of the following water supply projects to mitigate the water crisis;
1. Rehabilitation of the Nyamandlovu, Rochester Farm – which is complete,
2. Epping Forest – which received funding from government and still work in progress and missed its anticipated deadline of 30 October 2020.
3. Mtshabezi water supply upgrade – which is being considered by ZINWA.
4. Inyankuni Dam water supply upgrade – no funding released to date.

The current consumption trend is at an average of 96.227 Mega litres/day (1 mega litre is equivalent to one million litres) and remains higher than the current average daily abstraction of 88 Mega litres/day from supply dams. The gap widened due to the current hot-season, which had been anticipated since the onset of summer in august 2020.

Lastly, in view of the affected industries; the water situation in the last two weeks has been due to the growing water demand owing to the hot weather. Criterion Reservoir has been struggling hence low pressure in the Kelvin Industrial area. When Epping Forest comes on-line and starts delivering the desired water quantities, then Council will need to reduce pressure on Criterion Reservoir by rezoning so that Magwegwe Reservoir takes on more load.

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority has indicated that the city might getting supplies from the 7 boreholes already installed by Friday, 6 November 2020.

V.G : There are reports of corruption within council that have prompted Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC)to investigate Council where councillors and council’s top heavy have been accused of amassing stands at the expense of residents. How far true is that and as the leader of Council would you say your council is clean? If not what measures are you putting place?

Cllr Mguni : We are awaiting the report from ZACC.

V.G : The Town Clerk was in the eye of a storm recently after it emerged, he wanted another stand as part of an extension of his contract, was that granted?

Cllr Mguni : Issues of staff benefits and salaries are not discussed in the media.

V.G : There is an issue of the Council inventory. How far true are reports that the City Council cannot account for its properties since there is no updated inventory and some of its properties are occupied by former employees and politicians without them paying anything?

Cllr Mguni : The City of Bulawayo Estates Management is mandated to manage all leased non-residential properties as well as all sold non-residential stands for development. The leased assets portfolio comprises among others, churches, car parks, flea markets, urban agriculture land, shops, offices, base stations, factory shells, car wash bays, social clubs, sports clubs, women clubs etc. The City of Bulawayo is aware of all its leased properties and the Estates Register is up to date.

V.G : Politically, there have been threats of recalls in the rocking political ship. Are you not in fear of being caught up in the fights for party control as the MDC T party has already recalled some councillors for being defiant.

Cllr Mguni : No comment.

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