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» » Mucheke trunk sewer project back on track after expose

 Works resume at the abandoned Mucheke sewer trunk

 Moses Ziyambi / Emmanuel Chitsika

Almost eight years after abandoning the project site, Mutual Construction (Pvt) Ltd is back in Masvingo to proceed with the building of the new Mucheke Trunk Sewer project, it has been learnt.

The company abandoned the project site in 2014 after council failed to consistently raise the required funding to pay for the work, with suspicions that some of the money meant for the project was misappropriated.

In an earlier instalment of this story by TellZim News which was produced with support from the Information Development Trust (IDT), it was revealed that Masvingo City Council borrowed US2.1 million from government-controlled pension fund NSSA to bankroll the project.

The loan, which came with a five percent interest maturing in December 2018, was paid back in full but hardly half of the work it was meant to finance was done.

According to a 2019 report by the Auditor General (AG)’s office, a further US$900 000 from other sources was poured into the abortive project but available records did not show how the money was used.

Responding to questions from Ward 1 Councillor Alderman Selina Maridza in a full council meeting held on May 31 this year, City of Masvingo Town Clerk, Edward Mukaratirwa who was still acting then said council had received $40 million in local currency from government as part of its 2021 devolution funds allocation.

“A few days ago, we received $40 million as part of the devolution funds allocated to us by government. Part of that money will be channelled towards the resumption of work on the Mucheke Trunk Sewer project,” he said.

Speaking to this publication, Mukaratirwa said the contractor is back on site and the council had bought all the pipework required to complete the Mucheke trunk sewer project.

“We have bought all the pipework required to complete this project and we are going to use part of the 2021 devolution funds. We anticipate that the project is going to be completed by the end of 2022. However, for this financial year 2021, we are going to cover at least 60 percent of the outstanding works,” said Mukaratirwa.

Once completed, the project is going to help in easing sewer burst pipe problems witnessed in Masvingo.

According to Mukaratirwa, finalisation of the project is likely to curb pollution of Mucheke river, into which raw sewage has been flowing.

“Completion of this project will bring a lot of advantages to our city. All the challenges, for example the water pollution being experienced, will be a thing of the past,” he said.

TellZim News is also reliably informed that three more residential suburbs, in Mucheke, Rujeko D and Rhodhene extension as well as new commercial and industrial stands which will be availed later this year will be connected to the Mucheke trunk sewer pipe.

This publication witnessed some project workers clearing the bushes and other vegetational growth along part of the route.

The Local Government Board appointed Mukaratirwa substantive town clerk for Masvingo on June 28, several months after undergoing interviews.

ukaratirwa replaced former town clerk Adolf Gusha, under whose watch the Mucheke Trunk Sewer was initiated and botched, in September 2018 on an acting basis.

In the last full council meeting held on May 31 2021, Alderman Maridza had exhorted that council ought to ensure completion of the project. “This project should be our legacy project by which people of this city will remember us. We must, therefore, make sure that we do not fail this time around. People are in expectations and we cannot afford to disappoint them again,” said Maridza.

Ward 10 Councillor Sengerai Manyanga had urged council to stop buying new pipes and utilize those that have been abandoned in the veld over the past years so as to save money.

“We must not continue to buy new pipes when many others are still lying around in the open. It would be better if we made use of those pipes that are available and see where that get us. We could buy more in the future should it turn out that we need them,” said Manyanga.

City of Masvingo has bought dozens of other 750mm asbestos-cement pipes to add onto those that are in the veld, many of them broken and vandalised.

When contacted for comment, one of Mutual Construction directors, Stan Madamombe, said he was confident the project would be completed this time around.

“We are excited to be back to work. This has always been what we wanted and we do hope that we will be able to compete all the outstanding work without further delay. In the coming few weeks, you will see a lot happening,” said Madamombe.

Masvingo Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (Murra) spokesperson, Godfrey Mtimba said  TellZIm News that his organisation hoped that this time around the project would be completed.

Workers clearing the abandoned drainage passage

“The project was mishandled in the past, with residents and ratepayers being made to pay for official incompetence and greed. It is unfortunate that heads did not roll regardless of a clear case of possible corruption. We hope that the project will be carried out to its very end this time around. We will be monitoring the progress,” said Mtimba.

Council has said a total of $225 million in local currency is needed to complete the project, adding that the money would  be sourced internally as borrowing was no longer an option.

The local authority is also banking on annual devolution funds from central government  to help finance all outstanding work on the trunk sewer project.

 A whopping US$4.8 million has already been poured into the project, with hardly any results to show for it.

Council maintains that the project could not be completed on time due to the alleged incompetence of of the project consultant, CNM-YBJ Consulting Engineers, that the local authority has accused of under-costing the work through a defective feasibility study.

CNM-YBJ Consulting Engineers, however, deny the allegations and insist that they were let down by the local authority which failed to honour its payment obligations.

Many councillors who served between 2008 and 2013, however, claim that council management manipulated project implementation tender processes to favour Mutual Construction.

They claim Mutual Construction won the tender not on the strength of its CV but due to an unfair advantage created for it by former Town Clerk Adolf Gusha, the then mayor, the late Femius Chakabuda and now suspended city engineer Tawanda Gozo.

They claim that they had wanted the contract to be given to Forit Contracting (Pvt) Ltd which they say had a strong track record in delivering on projects of similar magnitude, but were overridden by the trio.

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