A ZIMBABWE National Water Authority (Zinwa) main water pipe burst underneath a local lodge last week, which deprived the farming town of water services for three days, has exposed potential corruption in the allocation of
Areas and institutions which went without water between 23 October and 26 October include the central business district, low-density suburbs of Westview, Jubilee, Crescent Lane, Lakeview, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services and Karoi Hospital.
A commission of inquiry, which will include council and Zinwa officials, is being instituted to look into the allocation of stands as it has emerged that some of them were corruptly allocated, resulting in buildings being constructed on wetlands and on top of water pipes at the town situated about 204 kilometres north-west of Harare.
Town secretary Wellington Mutikani is a director of Champion Lodge which is at the centre of controversy. The stand was allocated in 2010 when Mutikani was council’s finance director. He was elevated to his current position in 2017.
Mutikani confirmed the layout of the lodge did not take into account subsoil infrastructure, but declined to answer questions relating to the lodge, saying he was “just a director”. This confirms a potential conflict of interest on his part.
Mutikani said: “Champion Lodge is a registered private company where I am one of the directors. I understand the town planner didn’t capture underground infrastructure when he laid out the plan that was approved by council.”
As the council accounting officer, Mutikani said he was still yet to receive the bill of quantities for materials used to repair the burst pipe on council’s bill.
Mutikani’s wife, Kerenia Kanyurira, who is Champion Lodge managing director, said the allocation of the residential stand and construction of the lodge were above board, brushing aside conflict of interest.
“The property was approved after going through all stages and as beneficiaries we can’t be held to ransom to foot the bill to repair the burst pipes. Council must foot the bills to repair the affected water pipes as it has occurred on several occasions from different areas including the latest challenge that was at our premises,” Kanyurira said.
Zinwa workers had to dig one of the rooms to repair the pipe.
Karoi town council planner Tarwireyi Tayipa, who participated in the area planning, distanced himself from any “abuse of office”, saying council should pay for the repairs.
Tayipa is acting Makonde Rural District Council chief executive. “Unfortunately, I am not privy to how the building was developed, but property owners should have respected other service providers including water, sewer, telephone or electricity lines that must not be tampered with when developing any property. Technically, council should have taken remedial action before any property is built or revise the building lines so that they
don’t interfere with other services,” he said.
However, Karoi Residents Trust director Travor Chiwanga accused council of poor planning.
“As Karest, we call upon council to respect residents, who pay rates for better service delivery. Council must investigate the rot that has exposed how top management was implicated over shoddy land allocation that has affected residents due to incompetence and personal greed. The Champion Lodge as a private property should have been stopped earlier to avert such a misguided approach that is now affecting residents on water distribution. Water is a basic human right that must be availed to every citizen,” Chiwanga said.
Frecky Kuchekwa, chairperson of Karoi Residents and Ratepayers Association, criticised the local authority for failing to liase with relevant service providers when allocating stands.
Zinwa resident engineer Commence Chivanga said preliminary investigations had revealed that several houses were built on top of water pipes.
“Our initial investigations have revealed that there are more than 10 properties in Chikangwe (suburb) that are on top of both water and sewer pipes,” Chivanga said.
The NewsHawks understands many properties were built on top of sewer and water lines since 2008 when council embarked on so-called “in-fill housing projects”, which resulted in stands being allocated on spaces initially meant for vacant land and wetlands.
Some of the stands were allocated near Karoi Dam, resulting in siltation. Among the properties built on a sewer line is one belonging to a former councillor David Mutambirwa.
“I applied for the in-fill stand that I was allocated as anyone else. I had to build my property on the Zinwa main pipe that affects my house veranda as it sits on top of the pipe.
“There was an agreement by council to divert the pipe a long time ago. In simple terms, council will be held accountable if anything happens as they agreed to divert the pipe after allocating me the stand. It was never abuse of office on my part as everything was done above board,” Mutambirwa said.