BY PROBLEM MASAU
FRESH details have emerged that indicate that top City of Harare officials agreed to the US$340 million Pomona waste management contract with Geogenix BV.
Harare City Council has been denying that it approved the waste to energy contract, which will see the council paying US$22 000 to Geogenix per day. The contract was given national project status by the Cabinet.
Geogenix has since billed council US$780 000 for work which they have done on site for May and a similar figure for June, but the local authority is refusing to pay resulting in the company’s executive chairperson Delish Nguwaya, warning that the outstanding invoice will incur 12% interest if not settled on time.
Investigations by NewsDay show that HCC officials were treated to more than 10 days’ stay at a luxurious hotel in the exquisite City of Legnano, Italy, where they had travelled to carry out due diligence on a project in 2021.
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Their trip was funded by Geogenix BV. The council bosses also visited similar waste-energy projects in Italy and Albania.
One of the only two cities mentioned in the Italian national anthem, Legnano has many popular attractions including Villa Jucker, Piazza San Magno, I Giorni di Bacco, making it a worthwhile visit.
According to minutes of the trip, which took place from September 13 to 21 2021: “Geogenix BV extended the invitation for members of the project steering committee to visit Italy and Albania to ascertain for themselves the waste disposal and energy projects the company and its associates have developed in those countries.”
The City of Harare delegation headed by acting town clerk Phakamile Mabhena Moyo, together with officials from the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida), enjoyed a deluxe stay at a five-star hotel, Palace Legnano, where the cheapest ticket for the night cost US$105.
The top executives who visited Italy and Albania include acting town clerk Phakamile Moyo, acting director Norman Karidza, acting chief engineer Calvin Chigariro, acting head Keith Mapunza Moyo and an acting chamber secretary only identified as W Chiwawa.
The steering committee visited the company’s head offices and manufacturing plant, Bruno Presezzi manufacturing plant, Bozen waste disposal and waste to energy plant and Silea waste disposal and waste to energy plant.
After the visit, co-chair Mabhena Moyo, recommended that Geogenix BV’s successful implementation of similar projects in Albania and the demonstrated post-construction administrative and operational capacity, made the company an ideal partner to HCC in the consummation of the proposed waste management solution for the city.
“The engagement of Geogenix is thus recommended,” read the minutes.
While councillors and top executives want to paint a picture that government, through the local government minister July Moyo armtwisted the cash strapped council to sign the US$320 million waste management deal with Geogenix BV, information obtained by NewsDay shows that the city fathers were part of the agreement at its formative stages, but slept on duty by failing to scrutinise what they were signing up for.
Documents show that Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) secretary for elections Ian Makone, Loice Gomba and Elvis Ruzani were among the councillors who attended the June 29, 2021 council special meeting at Town House to approve the deal and gave the green light to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between HCC and Geogenix BV.
Acting town clerk Moyo (Phakamile) wrote to Geogenix BV on July 2 updating the company on what the council meeting had resolved.
“Please be advised that the joint committee meeting dated June 29, 2021 considered a report on the proposed joint venture partnership between City of Harare and Geogenix BV on the waste to energy project and resolved, among other issues, that council authorises the acting town clerk to negotiate,” Moyo’s letter read.
But mayor Jacob Mafume sought to distance CCC councillors from the costly waste management deal, saying only those who were elected during the March 26 by-elections were bona fide party councillors.
“The 26 councillors who were elected during the by-elections are the only ones who are linked to CCC,” Mafume said, and when asked to explain the issue of Makone, who is CCC secretary for elections, but was elected on an MDC Alliance ticket and was never recalled, he said Makone did not act under the CCC party then.
“A person is linked to the CCC if he was elected on that ticket, the likes of Makone were elected on an MDC Alliance ticket,” Mafume said.
Ironically, after a public outcry over the deal, Mafume appointed a special investigation committee to probe the deal, which is chaired by Makone.
“I chose him because he is a councillor, not because of his political affiliation,” Mafume said.
Makone is one of CCC’s senior officials. He addressed a press conference on February 16 this year briefing journalists on the preparedness of CCC for the March by-elections in his capacity as the party’s secretary for elections.
After the City of Harare and ZIDA recommended the project to the Local Government minister July Moyo, the Cabinet approved it on February 18 this year.
“Cabinet considered and approved the joint venture agreement for the design, build, operate and transfer for the Pomona waste management facility and waste-to-energy plant project between the City of Harare and Geogenix BV which was presented by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Hon July Moyo,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in a post-Cabinet briefing in February.
“In addition to waste management, the project will also generate 16 to 22 MW of electricity which will be introduced into the national grid. Government is encouraging local authorities to open up similar projects in other cities and towns as a way to ensure environmentally-friendly management of waste in the country,” she said.