The government’s determination to foist the controversial Pomona dumpsite deal on the Harare City Council has exposed the lack of commitment to devolution by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.
In 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution that among other progressive provisions provided for the devolution of power to cure the old problem of marginalisation of some parts of the country and poor service delivery by local authorities.
Devolution in simple terms means the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to a local administration.
In our context it was envisaged that central government would give local authorities the latitude to make decisions that would help deal with chronic service delivery failures and lack of development.
Nine years after the constitution was adopted, the government has done very little to ensure that devolution of power becomes a reality and it can be actually argued that there has been serious regression since Mnangagwa came into power in 2017.
The government is interfering more in the operations of local authorities through the imposition of bad economic deals such as the one between Harare City Council and Geogenix BV of the Netherlands early this year to set up a waste-to-energy plant at the Pomona dumpsite.
The deal places a huge financial burden on the local authority, which is struggling to provide basic services such as refuse collection and clean water because of perennial low revenues.
Council is already saddled with a US$1.5 million debt to Georgenix, a few months after the company took over the dumpsite and without any tangible development.
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Geogenix will take control of the dumpsite for the next 30 years and council would be paying heavily to use its own property and this is absurd.
Harare councillors have made it abundantly clear that they do not support the deal as it is presently structured, but Local Government minister July Moyo has been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that it remains in force.
Moyo’s stance on the deal has raised questions about a possibility that there are powerful people that stand to benefit from the extortionate arrangement.
The government has even gone to an extent that it says it will pay Geogenix through money from Harare’s allocation of devolution funds, but that is a decision that should have been taken by the local authority if Mnangagwa’s administration was truly committed to devolution.
There is an urgent need for government to revaluate its position on the Pomona deal and ensure that the constitution as it relates to devolution of power is respected.