Harare residents have vowed to stop the Pomona waste-to-energy deal through mass protests and legal action.
More than 70 community representatives gathered in the capital’s Glen Norah suburb last Friday to discuss the Pomona project, which has been widely condemned from early this year when it was exposed.
The meeting was organised by the Harare Residents Trust (HRT) with support from Information for Development Trust, a non-profit organisation that, over the years, has been facilitating public dialogues meant to empower citizens to hold public office holders accountable.
Whistle top meetings
The delegates at last Friday’s meeting agreed to convene whistle top dialogues in other wards before staging mass protests against the deal that was recently imposed on the Harare municipality by central government.
The Local Government minister, July Moyo, in late February this year personally summoned the City of Harare acting mayor and senior management to Town House and announced that the government had given the Pomona project national status and ordered the municipality to implement it urgently.
The 30-year US344m project is ostensibly owned by a German waste management company, Geogenix BV that, according to a hazy memorandum of agreement, is supposed to design, finance, construct and maintain a power plant at the Pomona dumpsite located some 13 km northeast of Harare.
The landfill where most of Harare’s garbage has been dumped for decades is owned by the municipality, which rejected previous applications for a similar project after a bankable feasibility study.
Geogenix—then known as Integrated Energy BV and locally fronted by Delish Nguwaya, a shady Zimbabwean businessman—was among the applicants that the municipality turned down after advertising for a waste-to-energy project six years ago.
Memorandum of agreement
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the council and Geogenix BV, with government as the guarantor, when Moyo intervened in the deal that also involved the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Subsequently, a memorandum of agreement was signed to operationalise the deal.
Using a special purpose vehicle called Geo Pomona Waste Management (Pvt) Ltd, Geogenix will purportedly produce 22MW that will be sold to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority with half the money being remitted to council.
The Harare municipality must pay US$40 per tonne to dump solid waste that would then be burnt to convert to energy using a steam system.
The MOU stipulates that Harare must dump at least 550 tonnes of waste on a daily basis in the first year, culminating in a mandatory daily dump of 1,000 tonnes by the fifth year.
But council, under its mayor, Jacob Mafume, recently convened and decided to suspend the project as it was done without proper consultations even though government insists the deal is still on.
Ratepayers are expected to bear the brunt of the project since the costs of the deal will be passed on to them.
“So far, residents and citizens have not been involved in this deal as active agents yet, clearly, if the project continues, we will be its prisoners. We need to find a way of freeing ourselves from this bondage.
“The project has nothing to do with the people yet they will be the victims. In this context, it’s time that their voices are heard,” said Precious Shumba, the HRT director who gave a detailed explanation of the Pomona deal to the delegates.
The participants made several resolutions as part of their strategy to stop the deal.
“What is most important right now is to make sure that each and every resident, regardless of political affiliation, is made fully aware of what the Pomona project is all about. In that regard, there is need for residents throughout Harare to be brought together and told what the deal means to them,” said the councillor for Ward 28, Chihoma Runyowa.
The residents agreed that more cluster meetings throughout the city must be organised, after which they would stage mass protests where they would besiege central Harare, relevant ministries and Town House with placards condemning the Pomona deal.
“We also need to be actively involved in giving support to court processes that are opposing the deal. Residents must turn out at court in their numbers to show solidarity,” said the HRT director.
Each ward will select representatives to attend the court hearings.
Harare North member of parliament, Allan Markham, and three others recently applied to the High Court seeking a review of the deal that they described as irrational and detrimental to the interests of residents and the Harare municipality.
The Glen Norah meeting resolved that the Markham application needed residents’ support.
The residents agreed to enlist the services of lawyers to get the High Court to include a collective affidavit from them in the Markham court challenge as a joinder application.
They also resolved to withdraw refuse collection fees to the municipality for as long as the Pomona deal was in force.
“This will be our way of telling government and the City of Harare that, as residents, we have no intention to support those that are victimising us. We need be working with brave residents who are concerned about the plight of citizens,” said Shumba.
In addition, the residents are planning to petition the Local Government minister to reverse the Pomona project.
Constance Shumba, the HRT women and livelihoods officer, urged residents to lead the mass protests against the deal.
“Yes, we will involve councillors and other politicians in our fight, but the residents must be at the forefront. The danger is that if we are led by politicians, the whole matter will be politicised. Real power must lie in the residents and citizens,” she said.
Residents who took participated at the Friday dialogue expressed shock at the deal.
Charity Shereni, a Glen Norah B resident, said she could not wait for the mass protests to take place.
“The information we got today about (the) Pomona (deal) is shocking. Most of us had heard about it, but we did not fully understand it. If our leaders call for protests tomorrow, we will definitely go.
“My heart has sunk and I will not rest till justice is done. Women must come out in their numbers because they are the most affected. The culprits must be arrested. What kind of government is this?” she fumed in an interview after the dialogue.