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By Victor Maphosa
More than US$20 000 was collected from Budiriro residents for the Cabs Housing Scheme to help Zesa’s distribution subsidiary ZETDC buy required materials, but the extra money never reached Zesa.
Old Mutual and its mortgage subsidiary Cabs, developed the stands, but the electrical component was the responsibility of ZETDC, with $3 900 being added to the cost of each stand, and covered by the mortgage, for materials needed for the link from each house to the substation.
As delays built up with inflation prevalent at that time eroding the value of the money collected by the developers, some individuals formed a four-member parallel committee to spearhead the electrification project and the sections still to be connected.
Besides the medium voltage links to the houses, a high voltage line was needed into the area.
Residents formed a WhatsApp group dubbed “Mutual Block 4 Zesa” that included over 255 residents and sought cash in US dollars from those who would benefit. The initial figure was US$50 a household, rising to US$75 and then US$105, but Zesa never received the money.
Despite payment of the money sometime last year, residents are still to get electricity and still have no idea how much was collected and from whom.
All that they have seen is a table showing that most people paid between US$75 and US$105 that was posted on the group without the specific figure for each household.
People were made to believe that the money was meant to purchase materials, but ZETDC spokesperson Ms Prisca Utete said the money never reached them.
Instead, she said ZETDC supplied all the materials in terms of an agreement with the financiers of the project.
Ms Utete said investigations were underway to establish the circumstances under which the US$105 were collected from the beneficiaries.
“The CABS Budiriro electrification project that is a partnership between ZETDC, Old Mutual and the residents was aimed at installing power through the construction of 11 kilovolt lines.
“The project consists of nine phases or blocks as they were popularly known among the residents.
“In 2019, ZETDC was supposed to construct 11kV lines whilst Old Mutual was completing the medium voltage networks within the development.
“Unfortunately, because of inflation, the prices of materials kept on escalating and it was difficult to procure them. In 2020, ZETDC procured some materials for the project and having noted the delays in the procurement and construction of the 11kV network, residents through Old Mutual offered to assist with the outstanding materials and in resolving any other impediments in having the 11kV network constructed.
“ZETDC did not receive any funds from the consumers and therefore there was no material procured,” she said.
Ms Utete added that ZETDC supplied the bulk of material.
“There are a lot of materials that ZETDC contributed towards the project from its stocks, with the bill of quantities also covering material that was not in stock.
“However, Zesa is in the process of carrying out investigations on the issue of the collection of US$105 per household by a ZETDC depot foreman as alleged,” she said.
The chairman of the ad hoc committee of residents, Mr Calvin Chinhengo, and other committee members apparently receipted the payments made but residents say there is no final accounting.
Contacted for comment, Mr Chinhengo could neither deny or accept the allegations levelled against him.
“I have contacted the other committee members on the issue, for the purpose of giving you a comment, but they advised me not to give a comment. So my response is, ‘No comment’. Maybe you should go back to the source who told you about the issue, he will give you more facts.”
A resident who spoke to The Herald on condition of anonymity said they were not told how much was collected and what was procured.
“At first we were asked to contribute US$50, then it was raised to US$75 and finally US$105. We were so desperate for electricity. However, we were never told the amounts collected.
“We could not ask or participate in the group because it was set in a manner which allowed only the administrators to post. And the administrators are the ones in the committee.
“There was a time when we all could participate in the group, but as residents continued to ask about contributions, the group settings were changed and we could not contribute or ask anything except to be fed information.”
Besides the issue of the money collected that never reached Zesa, residents also allege that some ZETDC employees were demanding a US$50 bribe each to install meter boxes at their houses.
Old Mutual Group Marketing Executive Ms Lillian Mbayiwa said the whole issue on electricity reticulation was between ZETDC and residents.
“Our responsibility on infrastructure was on roads, sewer and water with ZETDC covering power. After delays by the power authority a memorandum was signed where residents were to cover medium voltage works (the links from each house to the substation) with ZETDC doing high voltage (the 11kv line including poles and overhead cables). Cabs simply assisted residents by prefunding the medium voltage reticulation after a request by residents and beneficiaries who were to repay through mortgages.
“Labour was provided by ZETDC with Cabs procuring materials on behalf of residents for Phase 1 (Block 1) and 3 (Blocks 2,3 and 9),” she said.