HARARE City Council has defied Government's directive to buy water treatment chemicals from Zimphos, a subsidiary of Chemplex Corporation, Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda has said.
This comes at a time when council has approved trials of a new chemical coagulant, poly aluminum chlorohydrate.
If the trials are successful, the chemical would replace up to four water treatment chemicals.
Council uses eight chemicals for water treatment.
At least 80 tonnes of the chemical have been procured at a cost of US$212 000.
The city's water treatment bill has increased to US$3 million per month.
City officials recently met Government ministers and officials from a number of ministries where the order to procure aluminum sulphate from Zimphos was made.
Mr Masunda confirmed that council met Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo and other ministers to discuss the promotion of local industries.
"We are expected to abide by Government policy. The policy requires us to support local industry. Chemplex is one of the local industries," he said.
But Mr Masunda said council needed to consider the interests of residents whose money is used to procure the chemicals.
"What we are not about to do is to procure from them (Chemplex) if the price is out of the market. We cannot be asked to promote local industry when their price is three times higher. It does not make economic sense."
He said Chemplex Corporation faced viability problems resulting from a huge Government debt of US$25 million over unpaid for fertilisers.
Mr Masunda said Chemplex had to improve the quality of its water treatment chemicals and had to charge competitive prices.
The city owes the company US$1,5 million.
Recently Chemplex Corporation chief executive officer Mr Misheck Kachere accused the city of failing to exploit "readily available capacity at Zimphos".
Mr Masunda suggested that Zimphos should look for a strategic partner to help it improve on the quality of its chemicals. Zimphos alleges it has capacity to supply Harare with its requirements of liquid aluminum sulphate and in its granular form.
"The Zimphos alum manufacturing plant in Harare was built specifically for the City of Harare water works and has capacity to produce over 60 000 tonnes per year of liquid aluminum sulphate plus another 12 000 tonnes per year of solid granular aluminum for other municipalities," said Mr Kachere.
He said for over 50 years the plant was dedicated to produce for Harare. Mr Kachere said there were more risks with imported products because they were not subjected to the same quality testing locally.
"It is difficult not to conclude that the city authorities prefer to order imported products from traders for cash whenever the city 's cashflow permits but then resort to ordering from Zimphos limited quantities on credit when the council's cash flow is poor.
"This effectively means Harare City Council is taking unfair advantage of the Zimphos reasonable terms, competitiveness and willingness to help keep the water works going," he said.
Mr Masunda said the new chemical that would replace the aluminum sulphate would reduce the cost of water treatment.
Town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi said the chemical was used extensively in Europe and in East Asia. The chemical is manufactured by Hardman Chemicals of Sydney, Australia.