THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) is embroiled in a million dollar scandal after its board commercialization committee chairman Mr Garikai Musikavanhu issued desilting licences to 14 companies without board approval.
The licences were also disowned by the parastatal’s acting chief executive officer Engineer Bongile Ndiweni, who is said to have issued Zinwa bank account details to the 14 companies to deposit the money, only to somersault when things came to a head.
The scandal has seen the dramatic suspension of the company’s commercial director Mr Mike Jasi who is set to appear before a disciplinary committee chaired by retired judge, Justice Moses Chinhengo.
Zinwa board chair Mr Michael Ndoro has also resigned under unclear circumstances.
Mr Jasi, details show, could have been suspended because the desiltation programme was under his department.
Questions are abound why action has not been taken against Mr Musikavanhu and Eng Ndiweni who were both involved in the licence scandal.
Approached for comment, Mr Musikavanhu declined to discuss the matter saying the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate was handling the issue.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri confirmed receiving reports of the scandal, saying the board was investigating the matter.
She said Cabinet issued a directive to stop the desiltation programme.
“I haven’t received the report from the board which is investigating the matter. I can comment further after that,” said the Minister.
According to a letter dated July 22, 2015, Eng Ndiweni wrote to one of the affected companies – Angel Mining – announcing the suspension of the desilting programme saying the licences were invalid.
The companies had each coughed up US$5 000 application fees and US$30 000 per 30km block in annual licence fees, resulting in some paying up to $120 000 as they secured four blocks.
Eng Ndiweni wrote: “As reiterated in the previous communication, the desiltation licence in your possession was issued irregularly and the issuing person had no authority at law to grant any licence.
“We advise that it is not within the confines of the law hence it is an illegal document.
“The irregular licence was purported to be issued in terms of Section 5 of the Zinwa Act Chapter 20:25. The said Section 5 does not provide for issuance of any desilting licences neither does it authorise Mr Musikavanhu in his capacity as a non-executive director to sign and issue any licence as he did.”
She further claimed that the board and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate did not approve the process.
However, Eng Ndiweni contradicts herself in another document signed on April 15, 2015, which was addressed to Mr Musikavanhu as the chairman of the commercialisation committee in which she sought authority to use desilting licence fees to drill boreholes in rural communities.
This puts to question why on July 22, 2015, Eng Ndiweni said the board did not approve issuing of licences yet on April 15, 2015 she requested to raid money raised through desilting licences because the Water Fund coffers were dry.
Her April 15, 2015 letter reads: “The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate requested Zinwa to urgently address water challenges besetting the rural communities in some districts through drilling of boreholes and equipping them with hand pumps.
“The whole exercise is supposed to be funded from the Water Fund. Since the fund currently does not have funds, your approval is therefore being sought to utilise the money paid for desilting licences to enable us to carry out the works without delays.
“We will reimburse the Water Fund through withholding the water fund money paid by bulk water suppliers from the US$3 charge.”
In response, Zinwa spokesperson Mrs Marjorie Munyonga confirmed the licence fees scam but was quick to point out that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate was handling the matter.
She said: “The issuing person was a non-executive director of the board and had no authority at law and by any board resolution to issue and sign any de-silting licences hence the irregularity.
“ Despite a standing board resolution, he went on to issue eleven (11) desilting licences to various companies including Angel Hill Mining. This was done without the knowledge of other board members and Zinwa management and only came to light after the illegal operations had already begun and these were reported to us by concerned stakeholders.
“With regards the fate of the said board member’s irregularity, please refer to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.”
She also accused the desilting companies of engaging in illegal gold mining along river beds which was banned by Statutory Instrument 92 of 2014.
“Further to that, those who were in possession of the illegal licences were carrying out illegal mining activities as opposed to desilting and the illegal licences did not sanction them to carry out mining operations,” said Mr Munyonga.
But the Zimbabwe Explorers Small Scale Miners Association chairman Mr Edzai Kufandayedza refuted the allegations saying Zinwa had approved the desiltation programme which had created about 30 000 jobs.
He explained that the desilting process “had nothing to do with alluvial gold mining but the project has helped remove sand from rivers”.
“When we started desilting, Zinwa had no money to pay companies, so it was agreed that we were to clean up the sand and whatever mineral we get, it was ours. In other words, Zinwa said we were to pay ourselves,” said Mr Kufandayedza.-Sunday Mail