DOCUMENTS have unwittingly exposed how the government through several of its agencies pressured Harare City Council into a murky US$400 million Pomona waste management deal that has riled stakeholders who are now calling for it to be stopped as it will see the city losing millions of dollars.
The deal has faced resistance from residents, opposition parliamentarians and civil society organisations who describe it as scandalous and meant to siphon money from the local authority for the benefit of the elite that include Local Government minister July Moyo (pictured) and businessman Delish Nguwaya who has strong links to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family.
Several groupings, including the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, have called for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to probe the deal while residents’ groups are urging the authorities to stop the deal.
In his answering affidavit, Moyo said all procedures were followed as required by law.
“The project in question went through ZIDA Act (Chapter 14:37). The Act is very clear that with regard to Joint Venture Agreements also known as Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in sections 34 and 36 of the said Act, the agency considers project proposals from contracting authorities and through the Chief Executive Officer makes recommendations through the Minister to the Cabinet of Zimbabwe to either approve or reject the proposal.”
He said the government was having nightmares over the dumpsite and its risks, hence quickly gave in to the foreign company Geogenix BV’s “unsolicited bid.”
Moyo conceded he had a hand in appointing Stewart Mutizwa as acting mayor after he had suspended Mafume earlier and that on the day of the meeting, the Harare mayor was before a tribunal he had set up.
The Local Government minister also said he personally appointed Mutizwa after the councillors had failed to do so on their own.
“Mafume was absent pursuant to his suspension which I effected in December, 2021 and his matter at the time of the meeting referred to was before a tribunal constituted in terms of the law,” Moyo said.
“There was nowhere Mafume could have chaired the meeting in question. Councillor Mutizwa is the Acting Mayor ever since I suspended Jacob Mafume. Harare City councillors had failed to elect their own hence I appointed councillor Mutizwa as Acting Mayor in the circumstances. The law allowed me to do so,” Moyo said.
Moyo denied exerting undue pressure on council to sign the deal, saying he was simply “giving a hand”.
In his answering affidavit, acting town clerk Mabhena Moyo, through his lawyers Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni, argued that Geogenix BV, the local authority’s partner in the deal, was wrongly dragged before the courts as they were protected by the law.
“l am advised which advice l take that for one to sue a foreign company the leave of the court must be obtained first,” Moyo argued.
“lt appears that the 6th Respondent is a foreign company but no order to found jurisdiction has been sought and granted.”
The acting town clerk denied that the meeting that resolved the deal was hastily convened and accused the applicants, Markham, and the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) among others of mourning more than the bereaved.
“l must state that the applicants are crying more than the bereaved. The councillors who should have been complaining about inadequacies in the notices given have not complained,” he said.
“ln other words, they were happy with the notices given, had enough time to prepare and attend the meeting. With respect to the chairing of the meeting, l only wish to say that the meeting was chaired by Councillor Mutizwa because the substantive Mayor councillor Jacob Mafume was absent by virtue of his suspension letter attached.”
“l am also told a tribunal was subsequently appointed to try Mayor Mafume on the allegations of misconduct. lt is not in my place to comment on the legality or otherwise of Councillor Mafume’s tenure of office. That issue is best dealt with by the 2nd Respondent. All l know is that the council meeting proceeded on the basis that Councillor Mutizwa was the Acting Mayor appointed to carry out that function by the 2nd Respondent.”
The deal has been heavily criticised by residents and is being challenged in court while Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) councillors have called for a meeting next week with a view to stopping the transaction.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition issued a statement on Friday challenging the transaction, saying it was shameful.
“In our view, the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the City of Harare and Geogenix for the US$300 million Pomona Waste-to-Energy Project is a pure scandal, and a burden to the City meant to serve the best interests of the politically connected elites at the expense of the residents of Harare,” the CiZC said.
“We reiterate that this scandal is a well-crafted and cunning plan designed to siphon resources and strip assets from the already cash-strapped and financially distressed local authority.”
Residents of Harare and stakeholders were not consulted on the Pomona Waste-to-Energy Project.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the City of Harare was being set up to fail as it has no capacity to collect the required tonnes a day due to a depleted fleet of refuse collection trucks.
In its recommendations, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition called for an “independent parliamentary inquiry” into the deal led by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government.
“Zacc must conduct an investigation considering the circumstances around the signing of the MoA, the exploitative nature of the ‘deal’ and its implications on council revenue and financial standing.” NewsHawks