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Harare fails to pay $11m debt

by Staff reporter
16 Feb 2020 at 08:46hrs | Views
HARARE City Council is battling to settle a $77 million debt owed to the local authority's sole water treatment chemicals supplier, Chemplex, and this has seen taps running dry for several days.

The government last year directed Harare to buy its chemicals from Chemplex, but the city is failing to settle its debt, citing the delay by the Local Government ministry in approving its 2020 budget.

In December last year, Chemplex wrote to council demanding payment of $11 million, which was part of $77 million council owed. Council only raised $1 million.

"Instead, City of Harare paid $1 million only and this saw Chemplex failing to manufacture aluminium sulphate, leading to the closure of Morton Jaffray Water Works on January 14, 2020," a council insider revealed yesterday.

"Thus, the lead time if City of Harare was to pay on 14th January 2020 was 14 days to start manufacturing aluminium sulphate," a source said yesterday.

"Harare requires 120 tonnes per day of aluminium sulphate thus even if all aluminium sulphate from all other treatment plants in Zimbabwe could be collected, they could not sustain 24 hours' requirements for Morton Jaffray water works."

Several suburbs have gone for months without water despite the local authority having secured more than US$144 million from China for refurbishment of Morton Jaffray.

Harare mayor Herbert Gomba yesterday confirmed that council was struggling to secure water treatment chemicals because of the debt.

Gomba said council revenues had taken a knock because it was still charging 2019 rates at a time the inflation rate was ballooning.

He said the city was charging an equivalent of US$1 a month for properties in high-density areas and US$2 in low-density suburbs.

"The government said we must buy from and through Chemplex," he said.

"The challenge we have is that we are using a budget that was approved and announced for 2019.

"We are charging our ratepayers 2018/19 figures that have been eroded by inflation," he said.

"The costs of buying the products we use for water purification are increasing each day, so we are stuck in between. We can't move without the budget being approved."

Gomba said council was struggling to secure foreign currency to buy water treatment chemicals.

"We are now accumulating debts in our accounts including the water account, through the 1:1 issue, having to acquire foreign currency on the interbank market and that creates deficit," he said.

He revealed that council recently met Chemplex and government officials to address the debt issue.

Source - the standard

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