HARARE City Council has sacked a water engineer, while six more officials are in the firing line for connecting water to illegal settlements, some of which have been demolished.
It also emerged during the disciplinary hearing, for the fired engineer, that council smuggled, into the country GPS equipment worth $50 000 from South Africa for tracking water leaks.
According to council records of the disciplinary hearing proceedings gleaned by NewsDay, Melchizedel Chaniwa was dismissed last week for connecting water to Muzariri and Gonawapotera housing co-operatives, whose structures had already been deemed illegal and demolished. Chaniwa was dismissed on February 5 following disciplinary hearings, where he pleaded not guilty.
Council sources told NewsDay that six more officials from the water department were in line to be fired for the same offence, although the urban planning department could have been answerable for the illegal parcelling of council land.
“In terms of part of 12.8, of SI (Statutory Instrument) 171 of 2010, you are, hereby, dismissed from council service with effect from February 5, 2016,” read the dismissal letter dated February 3.
According to the charge sheet, Chaniwa approved water and reticulation designs, without verifying whether Muzariri and Gonawapotera housing co-operatives were the lawful owners of the residential properties.
“Instead of first verifying the ownership of the land in question, the accused proceeded to calculate the subdivision fees and authorised the co-operatives to pay the fees, thus purportedly formalising the illegal occupation of council land,” read the charge sheet signed by Harare water director, Chris Zvobgo.
“The accused, thus, did not have the authority to sign the design approval fees, where no proof of ownership or development permit from the relevant planning authority had been produced.”
But in his defence, through his lawyers, Manase and Manase, Chaniwa said it was not his responsibility to verify ownership of land, but the responsibility of the planning department.
He said he did not violate any procedure because none existed at the time.
Chaniwa said his duty was to approve plans, and in most cases, he did not know the owners of the plans, which he said was the responsibility of the urban planning department, not the water department.
“It is denied that the defendant or accused approved the sewage and reticulation designs of the two co-operatives. He will further say it was not his duty to verify ownership of the land in question as that stage was never reached,” he said in his defence outline dated January 15.
“Accused and/or defendant calculated submission fees based on the town planning layout and Surveyor-General’s plan. He denies ever formalising the illegal occupation of council land. Illegal settlers were already in situ (in the place) without defendant’s knowledge.”
Chaniwa said he was not even aware of the owners of the two properties.
During the hearing, Chaniwa revealed that council purchased GPS equipment to track water leakages and the gadgets were smuggled into the country without paying customs duty.
“City council, in an effort to stop spillage of bulk water, illegally imported GPS equipment and other equipment worth $50 000 without approval. That equipment was smuggled into the country by council officials. Therefore, those, who should have inspected the legal connections of water or sewer reticulation, were not doing their job and certainly, it was not the Department of Harare Water.”