A US$344 million waste-to-energy contract awarded to a company linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family was “shamefully imposed” on Harare, the Harare Residents Association and Transparency International Zimbabwe said on Tuesday.
The contract, rushed through after Harare mayor Jacob Mafume was suspended by local government minister July Moyo and several opposition councillors recalled, has been challenged in court.The 30-year contract for the Pomona waste dumpsite was awarded to Geogenix BV, a company registered in the Netherlands, without public consultations or public tendering.
The High Court has been told that “the contract was designed to fail” as it imposes obligations on the City of Harare to deliver set quantities of waste, and if it fails the contract can be cancelled and the city forced to pay US$3.5 million for breach.
Under the banner of the Harare Metropolitan Residents Forum, the Harare Residents Association and TIZ argued that the memorandum of agreement between City of Harare and Geogenix BV reeked of bad faith and was intended to benefit politically-connected elites.
Geogenix BV is fronted by Delish Nguwaya, a business partner of President Mnangagwa’s twin sons Collins and Sean. Reports say Sean and Nguwaya travelled to Albania to negotiate the contract with Geogenix BV’s beneficial owner, Mirel Mërtiri, who faces corruption allegations in his own country involving an incinerator contract.
The scandal has been dubbed “Wastegate” by the media.
“We, the representatives of the Residents Associations and Civil Society Organisations advocating for good local governance, transparency, accountability, climate and debt justice condemn and reject the imposed shameful Pomona waste to energy project on the residents and ratepayers of Harare, and the metropolitan at large,” the residents and TIZ said in a statement.
“In our view, the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the City of Harare and Geogenix for the US$344 million Pomona Waste to Energy Project is a pure scandal, and a burden to the city meant to serve the best interests of the politically connected elites at the expense of the residents of Harare.
“We reiterate that this scandal is a well-crafted and cunning plan designed to siphon resources and strip assets from the already cash-strapped and financially distressed local authority.”
The forum’s spokesperson Marvelous Kumalo said “while we welcome innovation aimed at solving our waste management challenges, this must follow due processes and be premised on tenets of good governance which are citizen participation, transparency, and accountability.”
Harare, which previously dumped its waste for free, must now pay Geogenix BV to receive it after the city signed over its Pomona dumpsite to the company. The city will pay Geogenix BV US$40 per tonne delivered.
The stipulated daily delivery is at least 550 tonnes or a minimum 200,750 tonnes per year – translating to US$8.03 million for Geogenix BV in the first year.
The agreement says should Harare fail to meet the minimum quantities, the city will still be invoiced as though it made the deliveries to meet the minimum annual guaranteed waste quantity.
Harare North MP Allan Norman Markham is leading a legal effort to have the contract cancelled.