HARARE – Business tycoon Billy Rautenbach’s Macdom and Rating company owes the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) $2,5 million in unpaid water bills.
The debt is for irrigation water Zinwa supplied to Macdom and Ratings’ huge sugarcane plantations in Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi areas.
Macdom and Ratings Investments is in a joint venture with government’s Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and produces ethanol for petrol blending.
Zinwa and Macdom and Ratings have haggled over the debt for four years.
Zinwa has been disconnecting water from Rautenbach’s company on a regular basis but is regularly forced to reconnect it without collecting anything because of pressure from unnamed top Zanu PF politicians, who reportedly argue that the plantations should enjoy uninterrupted supply of water since they have national project status.
As a stop-gap measure, Zinwa has made payment plans, which the company, has still failed to honour.
Zinwa corporate communications manager Marjorie Munyonga, confirmed the debt yesterday.
“It is true that Macdom and Rating owes us $2,5 million,” she said, adding that Zinwa has had to disconnect water from it “several times.”
“We reconnect when they make a meaningful payment,” she said.
Efforts to get comment from Rautenbach were fruitless as he was not answering calls on his mobile phone. He also did not respond to SMSs forwarded to him.
Zinwa is struggling to recover $146 million it is owed by various water users, with most debtors being farmers.
The majority of the farmers are senior Zanu PF and government officials who benefitted from the land reform programme.
The water utility is saddled with its own debts, with former Auditor-General Mildred Chiri doubting its ability to continue as a going concern. Chiri’s most recent audit report revealed that Zinwa had incurred a $13,3 million loss in 2016, with liabilities exceeding assets by $17,8 million.
Sources also told the Daily News that Zinwa has been struggling to meet its wage bill, with employees failing to get salaries in 11 months.
Munyonga declined to comment on the outstanding salaries.