We the representatives of Residents Associations and Civil Society Organizations advocating for good local governance, transparency, accountability, climate and debt justice condemn and reject the imposed shameful Pomona Waste to Energy Project scandal on the residents and ratepayers of Harare, and the Metropolitan at large.
In our view, the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the City of Harare and Geogenix for the US$300 million Pomona Waste to Energy Project is a pure scandal, and a burden to the City meant to serve the best interests of the politically connected elites at the expense of the residents of Harare.
We reiterate that this scandal is a well-crafted and cunning plan designed to siphon resources and strip assets from the already cash-strapped and financially distressed local authority.
While we welcome innovation aimed at solving our waste management challenges this must follow due processes and be premised on tenets of good governance which are citizen participation, transparency, and accountability.
We are aware that there have been attempts by the City of Harare and Geogenix to sanitize the scandal without unpacking provisions of the MoA that are dubious and dangerous to the City and its stakeholders.
Our conclusion and arguments that this whole deal is immoral and scandalous as informed by the process of signing the MoA and the provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Harare and Georgenix which are;
1) Residents of Harare and stakeholders were not consulted on the Pomona Waste to Energy Project.
2) Article 3.1.1 of the MoA states that the sites (Pomona Dumpsite) shall be handed over to the Contractor (Georgenix) free of charge and against no payment of any fees, tariffs, or taxes whatsoever and this is further bolstered by;
3) Article 8.1(a) further states that the Contractor (Geogenix) shall have the exclusive and peaceful right of the premises and sites free of charge against no payment of any fees, tariffs, or taxes;
4) Article 21.1 binds the City of Harare to pay the fee to the contractor which shall be equal to the rate of USD40 excluding VAT per tonne of waste deposited by the City of Harare at the site and this should be paid within 30 days from the day invoiced by the contractor and if the local City of Harare fails to pay within 60 days the contractor stops providing the services to the City of Harare;
5) In Article 23.3 the local authority in the first year is expected and bound to deposit 550 tonnes of waste per day which will be 200 750 tonnes per year and in the fifth year the City of Harare is bound to deposit 1000 tonnes of waste per day which will be 365 000tonnes per year, this is not feasible considering the capacity of the City of Harare on waste collection
6) The Minister of Local Government directed the City of Harare to agree to the Waste to Energy project as contained in the Minutes of the 1909th Ordinary Council Meeting, 28th February 2022, and in the Joint Environmental Management, Finance and Development and Business Committee Meeting Minutes, 23rd February 2022, on (Item 4) and;
7) The Government undertakes to support the City of Harare through devolution funds to meet its financial obligations, for the gate entry fees, for the minimum guaranteed quantities of waste, and to enhance its refuse collection fleet for a period of 5 years.
In view of the above, the City of Harare has no capacity to collect 1000 tonnes of waste as per the agreement due to its depleted fleet of refuse collection trucks, and the local authority is not in a financial position to pay USD40 000 per day hence the “deal” is meant to fail.
We would like to make it very clear that this scandal is a direct attack on the devolution of power provided in Chapter 14 of the Constitution since the project was imposed by the central government on the City of Harare.
Furthermore, the Minister of Local government cannot guarantee payment of dumping of the waste to Geogenix on behalf of the City of Harare using “devolution funds” because the priorities on the use of devolution of funds are set by the residents and their local authority and not by the center.
We view that the actions by the Minister of Local Government in this whole scandal are clearly acts of abuse of power and office.
This scandal is evident when the City of Harare is bound by the agreement to hand over Pomona Dumpsite to Georgenix for free for the period of 30 years and then is bound to pay USD40 000 per day to dump waste it has collected at its own cost for the next 30 years at the same dumpsite.
In a normal business contract or agreement, we expected Geogenix to pay for the rental of the dumpsite and even waste deposited at the dumpsite and not vice versa, since they will be selling electricity to ZETDC.
Considering the fact that waste incinerators have a life span of between 25-30 years, the plant will be handed over to the City of Harare when it is useless under the Built Own Operate Transfer partnership model.
Lastly, we are worried and concerned over the ever-increasing appetite by the central government to centralize power even though the Constitution provides for devolution, we do not expect the whole cabinet seat to decide on a project for the City of Harare when we have a Council and warn that this catalyzes corruption and bad governance.
We, therefore, recommend the following;
· Undo the scandal by urgently reviewing the Waste to Energy “deal” in consultation with the residents of Harare and key stakeholders.
· The government of Zimbabwe must respect and adhere to the provisions of the Constitution in particular Chapter 5 which recognizes local authorities as a tier of government and Chapter 14 on devolution.
· Speedy implementation of devolution and alignment of local government laws with Chapter 14 of the Constitution, and the government must put Bills in Parliament on devolution.
· Call for an Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into the “deal” led by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government.
· Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission must conduct an investigation considering the circumstances around the signing of the MoA, the exploitative nature of the “deal” and its implications on council revenue and financial standing.