Minister instructs Zesa to stop disconnecting GCC
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
MIDLANDS Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima has instructed Zesa to stop disconnecting Gweru City Council (GCC) and directed the local authority not disconnect water supplies to defaulting residents.
Minister Mavima urged Zesa and GCC to find other debt recovery measures such as legal action.
The minister said this after summoning Zesa and GCC officials to his offices following the decision by the power company to disconnect electricity to the local authority over non-payment of a $257 million debt.
The disconnection saw residents going for three days without water, exposing them to diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid and dysentery as they resorted to unsafe water sources.
Zesa was represented by Southern Region general manager Engineer Gibson Kasipo while GCC was represented by acting town clerk Mr Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe.
On Tuesday, Zesa disconnected electricity at the city’s water treatment plants at two of its main water sources White Waters and Gwenhoro dams.
Zesa also disconnected Town House resulting in council failing to collect revenue.
In May last year, Zesa switched off the council’s water treatment plants over a debt of $143 million and only restored supplies after the local authority committed to a monthly payment plan of $13 million.
Zesa reconnected the local authority yesterday afternoon following the commitment by council to a payment plan.
Minister Mavima said he was concerned that Gweru residents had gone for a considerable period of time without a consistent supply of water.
“Of late, I’m aware that the council’s water works are in a complete shutdown due to disconnection of electricity by the Zesa for non-payment of arrears amounting around $257 million.
What is disturbing is that this debt has accumulated over a long period of time with no meaningful efforts being made by council to clear it, thus forcing the Zesa to take the drastic action they did,” he said.
Minister Mavima said the disruption of water supplies to residents has resulted in untold suffering in the city.
“This negative development has happened in the backdrop of flooding in several parts of the city.
Among other problems, the flooding has resulted in the failure of sewer systems in the affected areas.
Residents are therefore exposed to potential outbreaks of water-borne disease such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea.
Under these circumstances, it becomes critical that residents be consistently provided with adequate potable water,” he said.
Minister Mavima said it is sad to note that due to the disruption of water, residents have been resorting to the use of unsafe water, which is being extracted from all kinds of water sources which include open wells, trenches, roof tops and few public boreholes available in the city.
Previously, Gweru, he said, used to have serious challenges in supplying water to residents as a result of antiquated and inadequate pumps at its Gwenhoro water works.
“In 2020, the Second Republic had to intervene in order to avert a looming crisis with respect to water supply in the city by availing funds through the Devolution window for the procurement of the required pumps.
The pumps have since been installed and this has resulted in increased pumping capacity from around 20ml to more than 35ml of potable water a day,” said the minister.
He said he expects the local authority to continue to take necessary measures to further improve water provision to ensure that every area and household gets the precious liquid on a daily basis through 100 percent coverage.
“Given the foregoing, the recent disruption of water supply to the residents as a result of power disconnections is a huge setback.
I wish to emphasise that both electricity and water are essential services which our people are entitled to,” said Minister Mavima.
He said the Second Republic has come up with Vision 2030 whose main thrust is to ensure that people’s living standards are raised to upper middle income status by 2030.
“This will not happen unless all our institutions are determined to improve and sustain basic services such as power and water,” said Minister Mavima.
He instructed the local authority to come up with an acceptable payment plan to clear arrears with Zesa.
“Meanwhile, Zesa is urged to explore other measures of enforcing payment for their services by local authorities as opposed to resorting to disconnection of power at critical service facilities such as water plants.
“Furthermore, the local authority will not disconnect residents’ water and instead should look at other alternative ways to recover the debt such as attachment of property.
And that goes for Zesa attaching council property.
I want to urge residents of Gweru to fully play their part by consistently paying their water bills and rates to enable the local authority to meet its service delivery obligations,” said Minister Mavima.