The Secretary for Local Government and Public Works Zvinechimwe Churu on Wednesday, 20 July, issued a statement on the Pomona Waste to Energy Joint Venture Agreement between the City of Harare and Geogenix B.V.
Among other things, Churu said the government will allow the City of Harare to use part of its devolution funds to pay its dues to the Netherlands-based company. Read the statement below:
The Ministry wishes to apprise the public of the development on the Pomona Waste to Energy Joint Venture Agreement between the City of Harare and Geogenix B.V.
The public will be aware the City of Harare entered into a joint venture agreement with Geogenix B.V. in March 2022.
The investment proposal was appraised by the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, which recommended it to the Joint Venture Committee for further analysis.
All the recommendations from this process went to Cabinet for consideration. Cabinet approved and the project was granted national project status.
On 2nd June 2022, the City of Harare held a full council meeting and resolved to, amongst others,
a) appoint Special Committee to investigate the Pomona Waste to Energy Project;
b) to suspend the contract between the City of Harare and Geogenix B.V on the Pomona Waste to Energy Project with immediate effect; and
c) to withdraw the affidavits filed by council with the court opposing the court case by the residents challenging the Pomona waste energy project.
On 16th June 2022, the Minister issued a directive in terms of section 314 (1) of the Urban Councils Act, that Council immediately rescinds the resolution which sought to withdraw the opposing affidavits filed by Council in the pending court proceedings. On 7th July 2022, rescinded the rest of the resolutions.
Subsequent to the directive, Council held a Special Full Council and one of the resolutions was for the Mayor, the Finance and Development Committee chair, Acting Town Clerk, Acting Chamber Secretary and Acting Finance Director to engage the Honourable Minister of Local Government and Public Works.
We have since held the meeting and emphasized to the councillors and executive, who attended the meeting that the stance taken by Council on 2nd June 2022, if carried through would have a damaging effect on Zimbabwe’s investor relations.
His Excellency, the President’s mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ and his engagement and re-engagement efforts cannot yield results if our public institutions enter into, and immediately renege on commitments that they make, purportedly on the argument that officials/councillors, who make up council have changed.
Government’s position is that council is a legal persona and decisions made by councillors, then in office, should not be varied willy-nilly on the basis that there is a group of councillors in place.
This is exactly what is happening with the Pomona Waste Management contract. In such situations, Government cannot just stand by and watch while a few individuals in council bulldoze the adoption of resolutions which damage Zimbabwe’s investor reputation.
From the outset and taking into account the fact that Council’s ability to collect revenue is still very poor due to weaknesses in billing, collection efficiency, amongst others, Government has made an undertaking, upon request by Council, that it would initially assist the local authority in various ways as it improves its capacity to collect revenue, and this would be, inter-alia:
- Allowing council to use part of its devolution funds to honour its obligation funds; and
- Support council through capitalization of its waste collection equipment, infrastructure and systems.
The understanding would be that the local authpority’s capacity would improve over the years and eventually and would be able to pay the obligations on their own.
In particular, Government, as the Guarantor, has undertaken to pay the May, June and July installments while council comes up with strategies to improve its financial systems.
However, Government takes note with concern that there are belligerent councillors within the City of Harare, who include the Mayor, who are determined to frustrate the smooth implementation of this agreement which was put in place by the same Council.
These councillors are seizing every opportunity to go to the press to vilify Government on a partnership that was consummated by council itself.
Government does not find such conduct acceptable as it amounts to political grandstanding on a very serious matter.
The city faces a crisis of major proportion with respect to the collection of waste as well as its management and this deal is a first major step towards boldly dealing with this challenge.
The errant councillors should seriously focus on cleaning up the city which is now an eyesore instead of picking up fights with investors and embroiling Government, in the process.
In the meeting held with council officials, there was a determination on the part of the Mayor to terminate the agreement with Geogenix and, in the process, pay the joint venture partner US$3,5 million.
It is apparent that these councillors are prepared to fork out this amount in ratepayers’ money regardless of the far-reaching implications that such termination will occasion on the inhabitants of the city.