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Bulawayo’s $3m white elephant

Despite being regularly voted the “Best Performing Municipal Authority” in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo City Council (BCC)has an embarrassing “white elephant” situated about 30km outside the city along the Bulawayo-Khami Prison Road.

By Ngoni Chanakira

The infrastructure that is lying idle is the Southern Areas Sewer Treatment Works (Sast 2) built in 2002.

Instead of treating water from the city’s neighbouring high-density suburbs, the gigantic facility has never been commissioned.

“We have been facing huge challenges with this very important project,” said Simela Dube, Engineering Services director for the City of Bulawayo.

In an exclusive interview, another engineer said, “Yes, I can confirm that the wastewater treatment works have not been commissioned because the firm doing the work pulled out during the country’s hyper-inflationary period. Since then, we have been holding discussions with government and among ourselves to try and pave a way forward for the city. I am, however, happy to say that a tender has been awarded to some firm to finish the project so that it finally gets underway.”

Bulawayo has about 10 wastewater treatment works and Sast 1 and 2 are adjacent to each other along Khami Prison Road.
About $3 million is believed to have been splashed for the gigantic project meant to help the City of Kings solve its annual water reticulation and treatment system.

The engineer from the BCC said Sast 1 was built in 1981, but is currently decommissioned, while Sast 2 was built in 2002 but was never fully commissioned.

“There are two wastewater works adjacent to each other,” he said.

“Sast 1 was an extended aeration sludge plant with a capacity of six million litres per day, later converted to a nutrient removal plant. Sast 2, has a capacity of 15 million litres and is a full nutrient removal plant. This work was completed in 2002 but was, however, never fully commissioned.”

He said Sast 1 was then taken offline. “Sast 2 was not fully commissioned, but has been run theoretically as an extended aeration plant because of a non-completed digested sludge system. The two Sast treatment works comprise inlet works which are common to both plants and comprise a mechanically raked bar screen with manual bypass, a manual fine raked screen, a flow measuring flume and flow water, division chamber to split flows, and mechanical grit removal system for both Sast 1 and 2 and two plants,” he said.

Another BCC senior engineer at the wastewater treatment works said there could have been some “political meddling in the whole project, as is normally the case in Bulawayo, which is seen to be very radical in Zimbabwe’s political fabric”.

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