I was – after attending several meetings with our town fathers and mothers – actually convinced, like a blockhead, that our lack of water for nearly a year now, was over a severely bloated debt to neighboring city of Kwekwe, whom we owed a staggering ZW$126 million.
In my naivety, I was sure that if I played my part in encouraging Redcliff residents to promptly pay up their dues to our local authority – water would be flowing back through our home taps again, as should be the case in any modern urban area.
As a nincompoop, I even made a decision to apply for a position of public relations manager for the municipality – as I had swallowed hook, line and sinker the tall tale that our town leadership were not to blame for our mess – as they were doing everything in their power to ensure that residents received the decent and dignified service delivery they deserved.
Everyone else was blamed for the torrid and unbearable plight the people of Redcliff were enduring – including the city of Kwekwe’s charging of commercial rates for the water to our town, and the defunct iron and steel making giant ZISCOSTEEL both owing huge sums as well as placing roadblocks in ensuring water was pumped to our suburb – with promises of alternative measures being put in place in establishing our own water source.
In a nutshell, should Redcliff residents not fulfill their debt obligations – ‘for the water they had consumed’ – there would be no tap water to talk of.
This all made so much sense!
I was sold out!
Little did I know we were being played for fools – and, I was one of those dimwits who actually fell for these stories.
As it turned out, during those meetings – our local authority never bothered informing us that there were already planning to sell off our land, under the pretext of paying off the $126 million debt to Kwekwe.
When this news was finally broken to us, we also believed that our water woes were nearing their ending.
Yet, months after the deal – which, interestingly, brazenly violated an order issued 21 September 2015, by the ministry of local government, warning municipalities to desist from utilizing land for recurrent expenditure – there is still no water to talk about.
When asked what had become of this arrangement – there is either only stone cold deafening silence, or more stories about the deal still being finalized.
Meanwhile, in spite of the $126 million supposedly having been cleared – the town, without water for a year, curiously already has a new bill to Kwekwe – which has already alarmingly breached the $20 million mark!
Nonetheless, as we patiently wait for the precious liquid that has eluded us for so long – more dirty details keep emerging of irregular and even possibly illegal underhand dealings.
As a matter of fact, the latest report by Zimbabwe’s Auditor General, Mildred Chiri, unearthed gross mismanagement, irregularities and flouting of tender regulations by the Municipality of Redcliff – with the most horrifying being the sale of 21 hectares of land to Livetouch Investments, to the staggering tune of US$847,962 in exchange for vehicles!
Chiri was clearly repulsed by the brazen violation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act – since, not only did the sale not to go to tender, but as Livetouch Investments was into chrome processing, and not a vehicle supplier, the entire deal was seriously flawed.
What were those vehicles our local authority exchanged for an asset as invaluable as land?
Four Toyota Hilux, one Toyota Fortuner, Toyota 18-seater bus, one Backhoe loader, five Nissan NP300 trucks, one Grader, one Skip bin loader, one Toyota Quantum ambulance, and a fire tender.
What caught my attention more than anything else though, were the luxury cars that found their way into this deal!
For whom were they procured – albeit, unprocedurally?
It gets worse – as, according to the Chiri report, a Faw Underpan truck, fire tender, Faw Underpan motor vehicle, among others, were not even delivered!
Yet, for reasons we can only speculate on – the luxury Toyota Fortuner was delivered in 2020, yet scheduled for before 30 September 2022, after being given priority over service vehicles by the local authority.
Redcliff Municipality did not stop there – based on the Auditor General, on 31 August 2021, they paid Classic Mobile using stands valued at US$13,348 (with an offer letter dated 26 October 2020) for the purchase of mobile phones.
Are these people serious – selling our land, in exchange for mobile phones – yet, we do not have water in our homes?
In all these unbelievably shocking deals – no repayments had been made, as at 30 November 2021, to the Estates Fund for these transactions, against regulations.
With all these shocking revelations – and, the local authority seemingly unwilling to give residents an explanation, despite repeated inquiries to that effect – I ask myself, ‘why do we even bother paying our bills to the municipality?’
What is the point if all we are doing is apparently just feeding the devious shenanigans within town house?
Even if we religiously meet our obligations – not only in the hope of improved service delivery, but also as our duty as responsible members of the community – this may simply be channeled towards the purchase of more luxury cars or in upgrading the authorities’ smartphones.
Ironically, the Toyota Fortuner that was given precedence over service vehicles is a write off, since it was allegedly involved in an accident!
I do not know – but, what I know for a fact is that, contrary to what we were made to believe – our untold suffering in Redcliff is not the result of residents failing to fulfil their obligations.
No, not at all!
Our challenges are more the function of a local authority that is more interested in the personal wellbeing and comforts of those in office – at the expense of ordinary residents.
Whilst, we lack a basis constitutional right – threatening the health of the entire community, as a ticking time bomb is just waiting to blow up – those in authority are busy living in opulence, in the land of plenty.
It is not a problem at all for our municipality to find funds for our town fathers to fly to South Korea – for a trip we are still to get an explanation on how exactly it benefits a town, whose residents have been without water for a year.
Again I ask – ‘so why are we bothering paying our dues?’
Instead, should those in office not thoroughly be investigated for all these nefarious activities, and be held accountable?
I am quite sure, there are more skeletons in the cardboard – should we look for them.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org