Bulawayo councillors and council staff, Friday walked out of a stakeholders meeting led by Energy minister Fortune Chasi to deliberate on the controversial decision by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) to demolish the iconic cooling towers at the Bulawayo Power Station.
The city fathers led by mayor Solomon Mguni fumed over the conduct of ZPC officials, whom they accused of making unilateral decisions without consulting the local authority and residents.
ZPC and the Bulawayo City Council are involved in a wrangle over ownership of the power station, with the latter also demanding royalties from the utility.
In addition to that, ZPC has reached a decision to demolish the two cooling towers at the Bulawayo Power Station in spite of strong resistance from the city’s residents, who insist that the structures must be kept intact.
An infuriated Cllr Mguni said since the matter was still before the courts, the power utility was not in a position to go ahead with its plans.
“I may be the mayor of the city but I am also a lawyer by profession. There is no way we can sit here and make any decisions before the courts pass judgment on the issue,” said Cllr Mguni.
“The city council had been disrespected in the worst way ever. ZPC decided to go ahead with this meeting disregarding the fact that we are still undergoing court processes”.
Cllr Mguni noted to add salt to the injury, ZPC failed to recognize the local authority by failing to consult them on plans to demolish the cooling towers.
“It seems they have forgotten they are only tenants on this piece of land. This land where they are operating from, the structures they want to demolish, belong to the council. They had no decency to approach us, nor the minister of State for consultation,” said the Mayor.
The mayor said he was deeply disappointed that ZPC brought in foreign engineers and reached a decision on their own without seeking the council’s approval.
“The council has enough engineers, whom if we had been properly engaged, would have helped in the assessment of the state of the structures hence enabling an informed decision,” he said.
Cllr Mguni said there is more to be considered when demolishing the towers hence the need for thorough consultations before making a decision.
“These towers are so iconic to the city. That is where the name Kontuthu Ziyathunqa came from. It is not just about bringing them down, residents need to understand why this is being done. These structures are as significant to Bulawayo as Great Zimbabwe is to the nation at large,” said Mguni.
“However there is not much we can say as the issue is still before the courts. All these deliberations will be resumed after the court has passed its verdict,” said Cllr Mguni before he left followed by all of his council delegation.