The city of Harare entered into an agreement with Geogenix BV which aims to turn waste to energy by generating 22 megawatts of electricity to be sold to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). The investment was given ‘National Project Status’ and will be headed by the company’s Zimbabwean representative, Delish Nguwaya, infamous for his proximity to the first family. Nguwaya was also implicated in the controversial Drax Scandal as well as other corrupt dealings.
The deal with Geogenix BV was reached without public consultation and without going through the correct public procurement processes. It has not been subjected to any oversight by parliament. Processes to solidify the deal were expedited with undue and unaccountable pressure on Council officials by the Executive.
Numerous clauses in the Pomona Waste Management deal are highly prejudicial to Harare City Council, residents of Harare and the nation at large. According to the agreement Harare City Council is scheduled to pay US$40 per tonne of waste, with an estimated daily delivery of 550 tonnes. Should Harare fail to meet the minimum quantities, the city will still be invoiced as though it made the deliveries to meet the minimum annual guaranteed waste quantity. Should Harare fail to hand over the Pomona dumpsite by the due date, according to the agreement, Geogenix BV may choose to terminate the agreement and the Council would be required to pay US$3.5 million to cover all costs and expenses.
The contract creates considerable financial obligations for Harare City Council to pay Geogenix in foreign currency (US$) for a period of thirty (30) years. This is ironic as Harare waste collection costs are in the local currency (RTGS) in a context with huge disparity and inconsistency in the exchange rates of the local currency and the United States dollar. In an application before the High Court, Allan Markham, Harare North MP, asserts that, “Harare City Council does not have capacity to meet this obligation without falling deep into an intractable debt trap or resorting to other developmental funds. The cost of the project is unsustainable.” Harare City Council is likely to default on its contractual obligations as it is already failing to collect refuse. In an attempt to achieve an upper middle income economy status by 2030, the Government of Zimbabwe identified devolution as a key pillar. Under devolution, citizens are involved in setting the development agenda in their communities. Decentralization can empower and enable the citizens especially poor and marginalised groups, permitting greater choice and control over their rights. Enabling legislation to operationalise the Constitutional provision for devolution to take place in Zimbabwe is long overdue. Numerous deals and unaccountable financial arrangements involving Council lands, assets and service have proliferated in the absence of functional devolution. These have been collectively harmful to the present and future prospects of many Councils especially the highly compromised Harare City Council.
There must be a move to devolve power and allow citizens to make choices that are in their best interests. To this end, it must be stressed that parliament, as representatives of the citizens must be able to exercise their oversight role in all issues concerning public finance management. Through its issuance of the contract with Geogenix BV, the government continues to disregard prudent public finance management and sound public procurement processes with impunity. For the sake of constitutional and developmental progress the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing must facilitate rather than undermine devolved efforts by Councils to safeguard public resources and to deploy them in the public’s informed best interests.