BULAWAYO has been sitting on an unsolicited bid from a South African-based company since 2020 that seeks to mobilise funding to finance short to long-term water augmentation projects for the city.
The city last year experienced its worst water shortages in years following the decommissioning of Umzingwane, Upper Ncema and Lower Ncema dams in January owing to low water levels.
Bulawayo has five supply dams.
The decommissioning of the three dams saw residents being subjected to a punishing water shedding regime sometimes lasting longer than a week at a time, while a killer diarrhoea disease claimed 13 lives and infected thousands.
It has emerged that while the city was battling severe water problems, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) in October received an unsolicited bid from the South African Timung Investments (Pty) Ltd proposing a partnership for the facilitation of water projects financing for the council to ease the water challenges.
However, there has been no response from the council, said Servias Mazhetese, the Zimbabwean-born chief project officer of Timung Investments (Pty) Ltd.
“I have tried to engage the BCC on several occasions but there has been no positive outcome since last year,” Mazhetese said in an interview.
On 18 October 2020, the South African firm wrote to council: “With reference to the current water crisis in Matabeleland and the City of Bulawayo in particular, we are pleased to offer our services in facilitating financing projects and in particular the ones targeting the alleviation of water crisis in the region, through our Swifin Digital Bank, E-Commerce, and Money Transfer/Payment Gateway and our investment partners.”
Timung is an affiliate of Swifin, a mobile payment and distributed banking service exchange and acts as its merchant. The Swifin service powers mobile commerce and agency banking.
In a follow-up letter dated 17 November, the company wrote: “Due to the urgent nature of the crisis, Timung Investments (Pty) Ltd and Partners would like to engage both the City Council on immediate need and ZINWA for intermediate and long-term resolution.
“…I am pleased to inform you that we are ready, willing, and able to introduce you to possible investors/funders/humanitarian organisations…on treated water and any other related projects.”
However, there has been no response, with deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube saying council has to follow laid down procedures, hence the delays.
“Council has laid down procedures, and sometimes these take time as clearance has to be sought from other agencies such as the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) and Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida). It’s a process and not an event. Secondly, it has to be understood that they (SA firm) might not be the only ones who submitted an unsolicited bid,” the deputy mayor said.
However, Bulawayo commentators were not amused as they accused the council of complacency and arrogance.
“The failure by the city of Bulawayo to even respond to the proposal is a sign of serious arrogance and complacency on the part of city fathers and mothers. For the city of Bulawayo to be found wanting in that respect is very disturbing and it talks to a people who do not see the urgency of the resolution of the crisis of service delivery in Bulawayo,” analyst Effie Ncube said.
“There is therefore a need to introduce a reality check in their behaviour to ensure that they do not continue with this behaviour that is not going to assist in any way to improve service delivery. It is important that the city of Bulawayo quickly engage such people not just one but many across the field of service delivery because we need that, the city needs that, every city needs that.”
Kelebone Khabo, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (BPRA) spokesperson added: “It is disheartening that we do not have a clear picture as to what is the long-term strategy from BCC when it comes to ensuring that we do not face the same water challenges.. .this is the time for us to be listening to those who want to invest in water augmentation projects so that we do not have the same problems again.”