New threat to Mucheke Trunk Sewer as July Moyo diverts devolution money

Moses Ziyambi

MASVINGO – Progress on the slow-moving Mucheke Trunk Sewer faces yet a new threat after the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing decreed that local authorities must re-prioritise devolution money due to them in order to cater for the payment of new fire tenders that government will purchase from Belarus.

The deal has been criticised as yet another example of massive government corruption as the fire tenders will be supplied by Alyaksandr Zingman, a Belarussian businessman with strong links to President Mnangagwa and his sons.

City of Masvingo has consistently assured residents that it will no longer borrow money to complete work on the nearly 10-year-old Mucheke Trunk Sewer project, saying it will make use of internally-generated revenues and its share of the devolution that are normally disbursed by central government.

However, in a letter to executive heads of local authorities namely town clerks, secretaries and CEOS, the Zvinechimwe Churu, who is the permanent secretary in the ministry, urged local authorities to ‘reprioritize the Devolution Funds to accommodate the cost of the fire tenders’.

“Each Rural Local Authority will get one fire tender, Urban Local Authorities will get two and a Metropolitan Local Authority will get three fire tenders. The funds to procure the equipment will be deducted from the 2022 Devolution Allocations and will be done over a period of twelve months starting March 2022,” reads Churu’s letter which, curiously, is dated June 14, 2022.

After the letter was published, Norton Member of Parliament (MP) Themba Mliswa, wrote on Twitter that the deal was another example of massive corruption by the Minister of Local Government, July Moyo.

“This is blatant corruption. Government sets aside devolution funds for local authorities so that they can carry out projects that they want. The devolution funds are disbursed by Treasury through the Ministry of Local Government. As it stands, councils have priority projects that they want to carry out and they have since submitted this to the Ministry of Local Government for approval. Now July comes up with his own projects and starts approving them for payment ahead of projects submitted by council.”

Mliswa has consistently and sharply criticised Moyo’s alleged corrupt deals including the highly-controversial Pomona waste management deal which the minister helped to foist on Harare City Council on behalf of Geogenix BV, a company registered in the Netherlands but which is owned by Mirel Mërtiri a controversial Albanian businessman who is accused of corruption in his own country.

Masvingo, which for the purpose of the new fire tender deal is categorised as a metropolitan local authority, will receive thee fire tenders which the ministry claims will cost a whopping US$464 296 each.

This means Masvingo will have no money to continue with the Mucheke Trunk Sewer Project over the next several months.

Addressing a provincial public debt conference organised by the Zimbabwe Coalition for Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) in partnership with Afrodad a week ago, Masvingo Mayor Collen Maboke assured participants that progress on the sewer line was anchored primarily on devolution disbursements.

“Council has resolved not to borrow again to finance work on Mucheke Trunk Sewer. All recent work on the project was financed by devolution money. The reason why there hasn’t been any progress in the past weeks is that we have not yet received the disbursements that we had expected to have received by now. We are making efforts to talk to authorities in Harare to speed up the process,” said Maboke.