BULAWAYO councillors yesterday walked out of a stakeholder consultative meeting between government and Zesa officials, protesting against lack of consultation over demolition of the Bulawayo thermal power station’s cooling towers.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI/ SIBONGINKOSI MAPHOSA
Energy and Power Development minister Fortune Chasi and his permanent secretary, Gloria Magombo, were in Bulawayo yesterday to engage stakeholders over Zesa’s intention to demolish two of the old cooling towers at the power station.
However, the meeting did not go well as Bulawayo councillors and some residents walked out of the meeting, accusing Zesa of disrespecting them.
“We can’t come here and ask these people to be judges in the case between us and ZPC (Zimbabwe Power Company). That’s why we went to court and we think the court is the final arbiter between our dispute. Our dispute must be resolved conclusively by the court, before going any further,” Bulawayo mayor, Solomon Mguni said, before leading his councillors out of the meeting.
Zesa and BCC are involved in a bitter wrangle over ownership of the power station, with the latter also demanding royalties from the utility.
“Anywhere, since you have invited us here, we will talk. We were not even included in the programme and we are now engaging you through asking questions from the floor, which is disheartening. We have been invited like anyone else, moving us from council chambers to come and discuss our thing here,” Mguni said.
“We were told that this is a second stakeholder consultation meeting, but we don’t know of the first stakeholder meeting and what the outcomes were. In any case, we are not stakeholders, but stockholders. We are owners of this building. These residents are owners of this property, so we cannot be called to a consultative conference when we are stockholders.”
Mguni said council engineers had never assessed the cooling towers and produced a report to them over their state.
“We have our own qualified engineers and they have not been asked to assess their own property and present a report to us as councillors. We don’t know of that report, but we are told by the tenant that your house has structural defects,” he said.
Mguni said the towers have a historical significance and destroying them was akin to destroying Bulawayo.
“There is no Bulawayo without these towers. If you destroy these towers, you would rather destroy the city hall because there cannot be a city hall without these towers. Destroying these towers is akin to destroying the Great Zimbabwe monuments because if you destroy those monuments. it means there is no Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mguni said if Zesa was serious about consulting the City of Bulawayo, the stockholders and owners of this property, they knew where to find them.
“Let us not be contemptuous of court processes. Let’s allow court processes to take place and then we engage each other,” he said.
Residents also accused Zesa of disrespecting them and demanded the power utility to redo consultations with all concerned stakeholders.
Chasi apologised on behalf of Zesa, saying they made a mistake by not engaging the local authority, residents and Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister, Judith Ncube.
“On behalf of my children, I’m talking of the Zesa people, I apologise to the mayor, local authority and the Bulawayo community at large. We promise you that next time, we will recognise the local authority and the different organisations from Bulawayo,” he said.
While he acknowledged the shortcomings of his subordinates, Chasi enlightened the Bulawayo community on the dangers of keeping those towers, saying they were dilapidated and could fall anytime.
Bulawayo Power Station, which has outlived its useful life, is set to be revamped through a loan government secured from the Indian Eximbank and on completion, itwill generate 90 megawatts.
Currently, it is producing about