Harare struggles to recover $170m

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Harare City Council is failing to supply potable water because of a crippling cash squeeze to repair aging infrastructure with residents and the government owing the cash-strapped council a combined $170 million.

Massive pipe leakages and demand that has outstripped supply are also among a host of other reasons dogging the cash-strapped local authority.

Most suburbs in the capital and nearby towns have gone for months without water, leaving residents scavenging for water in unprotected water sources.

The city supplies potable water to more than four million residents in Harare, Chitungwiza, Epworth, Ruwa, Hatcliffe and Norton.

Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda yesterday said council is owed over $170 million by government ministries and departments ($70 million by industry, $80 million by commerce and $20 million by residents).

Chitungwiza Town Council among other towns, has failed to service its $7,6 million debt to Harare in unpaid water supplies, a development that is now straining relations between the two as Harare councillors face a barrage of criticism over poor service delivery.

“(We are owed) $7,6 million. The respective functionaries of the two local authorities are looking into the modalities for the liquidation of the amount. We are anxious to avoid any direct intervention by our treasury officials in the billing and collection arrangements in Chitungwiza, but we may well be forced to do so,” Masunda said.

But Chitungwiza mayor Philemon Chipiyo said the water crisis in Chitungwiza was beyond redemption because of the confusion among councillors.

Chipiyo is under fire for allegedly trying to rescind a resolution that gave the thumbs-up to deputy mayor Rangarirai Mutingwende getting a vehicle while councillors got hefty allowances.

“I will not comment on that issue because that’s why 18 councillors wanted to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on me,” Chipiyo said.

“I wanted to rescind the resolution that allowed huge allowances and a vehicle to the deputy Mayor so that we prioritise service delivery, but that’s why knives are out against me.”

Harare councillors are breathing fire over the debt and want action to be taken. Harare’s water demand stands at 1 200 megalitres a day with council supplying just above 600 megalitres.