The reported delivery of 19 tonnes of poisonous sodium cyanide for Harare water treatment has torched a political storm amid moves by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo yesterday to elbow out businessman Alex Mashamhanda from the suppliers’ list by setting up a team to probe the matter.
While the MDC-T-dominated Harare City Council has vowed “not to dump” the water chemicals supplier, Chombo has set up a seven-member team to probe the matter urgently in what councillors believe was his ploy to settle old scores with Mashamhanda.
The team led by Civil Protection Unit director Madzudzo Pawadyira is expected to start work soon and will also look into how water treatment chemical tenders were awarded by the local authority. The team, whose mandate is broad, is expected to produce a comprehensive report within 14 days.
Other members of the team which has also been tasked to establish the extent of negligence and/or liability of the parties concerned are former Masvingo town clerk Tsunga Mhangami, Florence Ziyambi (Deputy Attorney-General), Petronella Shoko, a director at the Environmental Management Agency, Patrick Mushonga, procurement executive at the State Procurement Board, University of Zimbabwe chemistry department lecturer Albert Wakandigara and Comedy Piti of the Ministry of Mines.
“I have found it expedient to appoint an investigation team to investigate the matter, report on what exactly transpired and recommend a way forward to avoid recurrence of the said incident,” Chombo said.
“The team will also look into efficacy of the city’s internal chemical handling procedures to impeccably safeguard the integrity of the water management regime.”
Asked whether his action would not jeopardise police investigations, Chombo said: “We will never meet anywhere with the police because the nature of our investigations is different. The police are looking at whether there was a criminal intent and we are looking at whether a mistake was made from an administrative point of view and to see whether someone made a mistake and establish who that person was.”
Earlier, Harare deputy mayor Emmanuel Chiroto told journalists: “At no time did we receive wrong water treatment chemicals. A wrong consignment was sent to the city, but it’s wrong that we received the chemicals.”
Chiroto dismissed talk that lives were in danger saying the wrong consignment was never unpacked and was never going to be used.
A council insider yesterday said:“I want to believe that when there were reshuffles in standing committees, there were companies that used to supply the city with chemicals but they lost out and this firefighting is meant to discredit those who benefited and allow the takeover of the process.Chombo and Mashamhanda have their own wars dating back to the service station issue and this is the opportunity for the minister to turn the tables in his people’s favour.”
Recently Zanu PF shadowy militia group Chipangano accused Mashamhanda of supporting the MDC-T and disrupted construction work at his Mbare business complex.
Town clerk Tendai Mahachi indicated that several wrong consignments had been brought to council including the delivery of tonnes of salt at one point instead of water treatment chemicals.
“There are several times when we received chemicals that were substandard. We received a consignment of salt purported to be the correct chemical and we detected that it was wrong consignment,” Mahachi said.
Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi said the matter was out of the hands of council and would not pre-empt what was going on.