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July Moyo delay plunges Harare into health crisis

Moyo recently pushed for disbursement of US$55 million to buy fire engines without going to tender. His ministry has been piling pressure on City of Harare to pay Geogenix BV US$1,5 million owed under a waste management deal that has attracted scrutiny.  

TINASHE KAIRIZA LOCAL Government and Public Works minister July Moyo allegedly delayed sanctioning the release of US$5,3 million for a critical Harare water treatment project, despite receiving warnings that the city could plunge into a crisis, a running investigation by the Zimbabwe Independent reveals.

Moyo recently pushed for disbursement of US$55 million to buy fire engines without going to tender. His ministry has been piling pressure on City of Harare to pay Geogenix BV US$1,5 million owed under a waste management deal that has attracted scrutiny.

As shown by documents, Chitungwiza, Ruwa, Epworth and Norton also draw water from Harare whose source is contaminated with algae and toxic substances causing water-borne diseases.

In a document compiled by a technical team from the Local Government ministry that toured Botswana to inspect a chlorine dioxide water treatment plant run by Nanotech, the experts warned that Zimbabwe’s continuous use of aluminium sulphate, among a cocktail of six chemicals, was costly. This was also linked to Alzheimer disease.

“It must be noted that the city and other water treatment works in the country are probably the only water works that still continue to use aluminium sulphate in Southern Africa despite the link of aluminium to Alzheimer disease,” the internal memorandum written in December 2021 reads.

The Independent first reported about the crisis that can potentially degenerate into a catastrophe on January 10, 2020, based on research commissioned by the city showing that it was pumping water contaminated with deadly toxins which can cause liver and nervous system ailments.

Through correspondence dated June 20, 2022, the then City of Harare acting town clerk Phakamile Mabhena Moyo wrote to

the Local Government ministry appealing for urgent disbursement of US$5,4 million to Nanotech for the water treatment project to avert disaster.

“Reference is made to our letter of request (Ref letter dated 3 May 2022) for payment of Nanotech for the above project and hereby appeal for urgent release of funds for the settlement of the outstanding invoice and avert disaster which might arise due to reduced water supply,” the letter reads, addressed to Local Government and Public Works secretary Zvinechimwe Churu.

“It is against the above background that urgent implementation of the chlorine dioxide technology project be urgently implemented to avoid unwanted impacts like typhoid and cholera which will be caused by a reduction in potable water supply.”

In his letter, Mabhena Moyo underscored that the city stands to save “about US$183 492,73 monthly”.

Harare spends about US$3 million per month to procure chemicals.

Nanotech, which runs chlorine dioxide water treatment plants in neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, is expected to set up simila

Morton Jaffray

However, delays in disbursement of devolution funds, from which the project will be financed have stalled progress.

The project will see Harare migrating from six treatment chemicals to chlorine dioxide. It is widely used around the world by countries such as Canada, Italy and the US.

Prior to Mabhena Moyo’s June 20, 2022 letter, he had also written to Churu on April 3, 2022, lodging the same request.

“May you note the city signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nanotech Water Solutions for use of chlorine dioxide in water treatment at Morton Jaffray. The City has since requested for financial assistance amounting to US$4 650 000 from the government for the installation of the chlorine dioxide generators and ancillaries at the works,” reads the letter.

“The release of the said amount from the government will go a long way in improving water quality in Harare in line with National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) on infrastructure and utilities. Your urgent assistance with the release of funds will be greatly appreciated,” Mabhena Moyo wrote.

In the letter, he indicated that Harare was now facing challenges of procuring chemicals from Sasol in South Africa.

On November 17, 2020, Prosper Chonzi, who was then the acting town clerk, wrote to the provincial development coordinator (PDC) Tafadzwa Muguti saying the project could suffer a stillbirth due to “financial” threats.

“… the project faces a financial threat as the city is facing challenges paying the current chemical suppliers and the extra load of responsibility will be quite a huge risk and a request for comprehensive financial support had been submitted to the ministry of Local Government (letter dated 18 June 2020 to the permanent secretary refers) but we are yet to receive it, if any is coming our way,” Chonzi wrote.

When asked why the central government, through the ministry, has not yet availed funding for the crucial water treatment project, Churu referred the Independent to the Harare City Council.

“Raise the question with the City (of Harare) because it is an area in their jurisdiction. I cannot comment on correspondence that is supposed to be confidential, which was leaked to your organisation. As I mentioned that matter is still within the jurisdiction of HCC and they should respond to the questions you raised,’ he said yesterday.

At the time of going to print, Moyo and his deputy Marian Chombo  had not responded to questions posed by the Independent.

Mabhena Moyo said yesterday: “Funds have not been disbursed. Local government have said they are waiting for disbursement from finance. We are not getting enough chlorine. We want to move to chlorine dioxide for that reason.

“The director of works has gone on a tour to inspect Nanotech water treatment plants. They are the ones who came forward in our effort to find solutions to the water problems. They came forward with that solution no one else did”.

Nanotech spokesperson Benson Mukombo told this publication this week that the water treatment firm stands ready to roll out the project once funds are available.

“We cannot comment much but on our part we have done everything that was required of us. We are just waiting for funding to produce water of the highest quality for the residents of Harare,” Mukombo said.

Documents show that the chlorine dioxide was endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care following an application submitted by the city to adopt the widely used water technology.

“Your proposal to use chlorine dioxide for an alternative to chlorine gas as a disinfectant in water treatment is approved. The approval covers our support for the procurement of related equipment and accessories,” reads a letter by Ministry of Health and Child Care secretary Jasper Chimedza to Mabhena Moyo on September 21, 2021.

“Government advocates for strengthened water quality monitoring during the three months trial run to evaluate the effectiveness of the chemical in water treatment.”

Documents seen by the Independent, as part of its investigative work around the stationary chlorine dioxide project, show that from May 12 to May 13, the city dispatched a team of water experts to inspect a treatment plant run by Nanotech in South Africa.

Subsequently, another team comprising experts from Local Government, City of Harare and Zimbabwe National Water Authority toured a chlorine dioxide water treatment plant in Botswana (Palapye) run by Nanotech on November 5, 2021 and similarly recommended the urgent adoption of the technology.

Chlorine dioxide has widely been recommended as one of the most effective biocidal agents available for industrial and domestic water treatment methods recognised by the World Health Organisation.

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