By Wisdom Mumera
Harare residents have been up in arms over the poor service delivery being offered by the Harare City Council with constant sewage bursts, water shortages, uncollected refuse and substandard water which has seen outbreaks of typhoid and cholera.
However despite the efforts of many for the rectification of the problems some pointers exist which show that we may be in for the long haul before things normalize and service delivery reverts to normal.
1 Council Needs Foreign Currency to Buy Some Chemicals
Harare City Council requires a staggering US$500 000 per month to acquire a variety of chemicals which are used for the purification of water.
Compared against the Harare population the figure was not supposed to be daunting but it becomes frightening when one realizes that the said population pays its rates in bond notes and a variety of electronic transfers.
Lately, Council has started carrying out trial runs for locally-made water purification chemicals which are expected to reduce the demand for foreign currency.
“Tests for a new water chemical that will replace three of those in current use and save US$500 000 are progressing well. This will improve our yield per day as it will also deal with odor, algae and kill bacteria, making more water available to our residents,” Mayor Herbert Gomba has said.
For now, the figure remains a monthly demand and it’s sure as the brown water they produce that the City Fathers have no such money.
2 Council is an MDC Hive
ZANU PF remains sore about the loss of control of major urban cities and towns. Knowing them and their guerilla attitudes it’s not below them to use state apparatus and controls to derail Harare City Council, filled with MDC Alliance Councilors for political points.
A Bulawayo Councilor from MDC A expressed it plainly.
“One way the government fixes us is to ensure that foreign currency allocations for critical stuff like water treatment chemicals or development projects are always late.
“Applications are made to the Reserve Bank but the money, if it comes, would have been overtaken by events and council would have sourced the money from expensive sources to ensure service delivery is uninterrupted”.
Thus a struggling and poor Harare City Council is bashed as the symbolic failure of MDC A and that is viewed as a way of gaining political traction in ZANU circles. Thus the ruling party won’t lose sleep over the sewage or dirty water but will use them as political weapons to gain an advantage over the mother MDC A led by Chamisa.
3 The Debt that was Cancelled
ZANU’s falsely philanthropic cancellation of utility debts for residents in 2013 resulted in the loss of over US$3 billion for entities such as City Council and ZESA.
The hardest hit by Mugabe’s order were the 92 local authorities which were jointly owed US$2 billion while ZESA, which had more than US$800 million locked in debts, lost US$170 million through debt cancellation for farmers and domestic consumers.
The effect of that populist magic act is still being felt up to today as the entities never fully recovered. The only karma was that ZANU PF itself didn’t fully benefit from the move as they still lost Harare.
4 Thieves Abound in the Corridors of Power
Corruption remains the main demon to exorcise as the corridors of power, even in the impoverished Council, are still filled with some fraudulent activities.
Commodities have been ordered, paid for but never delivered.
Stands are clandestinely sold with nothing accruing to Council.
Council properties are rented in US$ which is pocketed by a middleman who pays Council Bond notes.
This web of corruption has been bleeding Council for decades and until intent is supported by practical action progress is zilch.
5 Zimbabwe is a Mess
The mother of all points is that Zimbabwe is an economic mess and Harare City Council will find success hard to come by operating in a shredded macro-economic environment.
The onus is on them to find ways to beat the mish-mash of economic policies and Statutory Instruments thrown at them but the staple fact that Zimbabwe is an economy on deathbed means success will be minimal at best.