Harare’s US$3 billion Singaporean deal questioned

town house
Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter

Harare City Council has allegedly entered into a $3 billion finance scheme with a Singaporean company — Neo-Paragon — to fund the construction of three dams, without carrying any due diligence exercise on the firm. It has emerged that Harare mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni, his deputy councillor Thomas Muzuva, residents and councillors, are in the dark.

The Herald understands that under the deal, Neo-Paragon will take 70 percent profits from the dams projects, while Harare City gets 30 percent over 30 years, after which the city will take over the three projects.

The dams are; Kunzvi, Musami and Muda. It is understood that the deal was approved by a caretaker council committee which was in charge of the affairs of the city prior to last year’s July 31 harmonised polls, which brought in the new councillors.

According to the unsigned negotiation papers shown to this paper, the Singaporean firm is bringing in $2,9 billion to construct Kunzvi, Musami and Muda dams under a 30-year partnership agreement. However, Mr Manyenyeni said the city should appraise its potential partners before making any commitments on the deal.

“The anatomy of any partner to the city’s major projects must always be well-appraised, Neo-Paragon included,” he said.
“The city must not allow itself to be a guinea pig for novice entities. Our current predicaments must never force us to be taken advantage of,” he said.

A councillor who spoke to the Herald said the deal smacked of corruption as councillors were not being allowed to be part of negotiations.
“The deal is supposed to be open since it is of national importance.

The deal is being done by the city’s management, yet representatives from Chitungwiza and Epworth who are also set to benefit are not being involved. We have tried to get hold of the company, but there are no contacts and the company does not even have a website outlining its past projects or experience,” said the councillor.

Deputy mayor Clr Thomas Muzuva, said councillors were in the dark pertaining to the details of the deal.
“We are not aware of the finer details of the deal, we were only informed of it,” he said.

Clr Muzuva said council needed to scrutinise the deal before signing as it seemed skewed in favour of the Singaporean firm and could result in the privatisation of water, which residents could not afford. Already, council has been forced to shelve plans to install pre-paid water meters after facing stiff resistance from residents who feel this would put the cost of water beyond the reach of the poor.

Harare Residents Trust spokesperson, Ms Sharon Magodyo, said the $3 billion deal showed seeds of corruption.
“Information is not being shared within the council and the public to see if they approve the deal. This passed decision can bring negative impact to residents because the firm will control 70 percent, in other words the council will no longer have a say to the water issue and the rights of people will be marginalised since water will be privatised.”

Town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi could not be reached for comment, while city spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi, referred questions to Mr Muzuva.
Recently, legislators demanded to supervise such deals involving huge amounts to encourage transparency.

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