Over three million people in Harare Metropolitan province have gone two days without water as Zesa Holdings switched off power to Harare’s main treatment plant, Morton Jaffray over a debt of more than $1 billion.
Morton Jaffray water treatment plant supplies Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton, Ruwa, and Epworth local authorities. It stopped operating midday Thursday when Zesa pulled the plug, exposing residents who resorted to unsafe water sources to the risk of diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, and typhoid.
Harare City Council said it had engaged Zesa which agreed to switch on power by lunchtime yesterday following a payment plan and water was expected to be flowing by end of day.
The debt is estimated at $1.3 billion, although Zesa has not made financial commitments towards the agreed royalties for the council buildings, power station and other assets since 1996.
Harare’s electricity undertaking was absorbed into Zesa when a unified electricity authority was set up soon after independence but Zesa is expected to be paying royalty on the assets it acquired.
Acting Harare town clerk Engineer Mabhena Moyo said the council had proposed a weekly payment plan.
“The debt is about $1 billion and we have paid $50 million so far while committing ourselves to make a weekly payment plan. Electricity was switched on by lunchtime after negotiations and we were expecting that water should be running by now (close of business yesterday),” he said.
The shutting down of Morton Jaffray has once again exposed the vulnerability of city finances as it is the umpteenth time the plant has been closed over numerous issues including lack of the essential water treatment chemicals.
Harare Residents Trust director Mr Precious Shumba said while it was Harare’s obligation to pay its bills, Zesa as another public entity should avoid endangering people’s lives through its hasty moves.
“The national power utility and council are of strategic importance to the nation serving the taxpayers. If by any chance they can avoid cutting power they should do so.
“Zesa should not assume superiority over another State entity as both serve the same purpose. We urge them to be sincere because they know the danger posed by the shortage of water,” he said.