Government has secured funding commitments worth $940 million from China to overhaul Harare’s water and sewer system, which is in a state of disrepair and has been blamed for the current cholera outbreak.
Part of the funding, which also covers technical assistance, will go to bulk water supplies, purification works, sewer plants and waste water reticulation.
Overall, the overhaul of Harare’s water and sewer system involves rehabilitation of existing infrastructure; and construction of new dams, sewer plants, treatment works, storage and distribution facilities.
Cholera has killed 28 people and infected 4 600 others, most of them in Harare, making the need to invest in water systems all the more urgent.
Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Mr George Magosvongwe told The Sunday Mail last week that, “US$600 million of the funding will go towards construction of Kunzvi Dam, treatment works, conveyance system and storage reservoirs in Harare.
“US$180 million is for rehabilitation and upgrading of portions of water distribution network, among other works which include replacement of a 54km transmission network (primary mains), and replacement of 208km of distribution mains (secondary and tertiary mains),” said Mr Magosvongwe.
“Rehabilitation of two distribution pumping stations and rehabilitation and installation of security facilities at 26 reservoir sites will also be covered on the US$180 million.”
The remaining $160 million, he said, would be used to spruce up the main pumping lines from Warren Hills Control Station to all reservoirs.
Zimbabwe had ran into challenges in accessing money from China owing to loan arrears, but the recent elevation of diplomatic relations between Harare and Beijing from a “Friendly Partnership” to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State Visit in April unlocked funding for key projects.
While Government had previously secured a $144 million facility through which China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (Camec) was supposed to refurbish water and sewer treatment plants, bungling by the Harare City Council derailed the project.
Camec began work in 2010 and was supposed to have been completed in 2014, but the project stalled amid allegations of mismanagement and abuse of funds.
Experts say most existing water infrastructure is old and incapable of supporting the capital city’s ever-burgeoning population.
Harare’s oldest suburb, Mbare, for example, was established 111 years ago, while Highfield, the second-oldest, came into being 88 yearsago.
The overhaul of the capital’s water and sewer system is part of a grand masterplan to modernise standards of living.
Mr Magosvongwe said Government had lined up massive infrastructure developments over the next five years.
Command Housing, he pointed out, would be an aspect of the modernisation drive, with Mbare being one of the first ports of call for the regeneration project that is being undertaken via the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe and the Urban Development Corporation.
Mr Magosvongwe said: “It’s not just Mbare; we have Makokoba, we have Dulibadzimu, we have Kariba, Mutare and many other dilapidated flats around the country.
“The Command Housing programe will definitely start in Mbare … We will substitute the current dwellings with new buildings with better facilities and amenities for the benefit of those currently occupying the dilapidated structures.
“We want to create a Mbare where you can get every facility there — churches, clinics and recreational facilities.”
Udcorp will play a lead role in regularising unplanned settlements.
Local government will be revitalised through modernising and harmonising systems within local authorities.
The revamp includes service level benchmarking, programme-based budgeting and up to date council audits.
The constitutional imperative of devolution, Mr Magosvongwe added, was at the centre of the masterplan.
“We are also having preparations for devolution just as the President announced. The Constitution is very clear that devolution can only be done where council is ready. We cannot send a basic service to a council that is not ready to deliver.”