China Nachang Engineering (Pvt) Ltd has withdrawn from a US$400 million deal with Harare City Council which was expected to supply 600 green-energy buses in the metropolitan province, saying it was advised against engaging council by government officials who insisted they go via the appropriate ministry.
The Chinese firm in February this year approached council with the mass solar bus transportation system.
The arrangement was that the Chinese firm would provide shuttle for Norton and Harare’s southern, eastern and western suburbs. Harare-Norton was to receive 35 solar buses, 45 for Harare-Chitungwiza route and Harare-Ruwa route would get 20 buses. How the rest of the fleet would be distributed had not yet been revealed.
The buses were expected to be cheaper than the ordinary fee.
The government, in a bid to pacify citizens who have seen their wages eroded by high inflation, introduced their own fleet of Zupco buses. The buses ferry people for as little as ZWL$0,50 in Harare, while Chitungwiza-bound buses charge ZWL$0,75 and those headed for Norton pay ZWL$1.
Minutes from the Harare City Business Committee meeting of June 18 2019 showed that council had made efforts to pursue the Chinese company intending to finalise the deal by signing a memorandum of agreement with them, but to no avail.
The meeting held at Town House was by chaired by vice-chairperson of the committee, councillor Samuel Manyenga and attended by Town Clerk Hosiah Chisango among other council officials.
“The committee now considers a report by Town Clerk wherein he reported that, pursuant to the above resolutions, China Nachang Engineering (Pvt) Ltd was invited to discuss the terms and conditions of the memorandum of agreement through phone calls and a letter dated 21st May 2019 of which China Nachang Engeneering (Pvt) Ltd had not responded to.
“The company had, however, advised through telephone conversations that they had received instructions from officials allegedly from various government ministries not to engage council on this project, but to approach the relevant ministry. In view of the above, China Nachang has since allegedly abandoned the matter, hence there is no longer need to pursue the proposed business venture,” read the minutes.
Council has since resolved to cancel any agreement entered into between City of Harare and the Chinese company.
“Subject to approval of recommendation (1), any agreement entered into between City of Harare and China Nachang Engineering (CNE) (Pvt) Ltd in respect of the proposed Mass Transportation system in the Harare Metropolitan Province be and is hereby cancelled,” read the minutes.
The initial agreement with the Chinese firm was that operations would be managed from four established depots, two in Harare, one in Chitungwiza and one in Norton. Depots would be firstly fitted with maintenance and recharging facilities and would be large enough to cater for some 200 buses each.
The project would have 12 battery swapping stations and they would act as charging centres. The bus types would be a new energy concept and Harare would be the first city to implement it in Africa. Transport services would run 19 hours every day from 4am to 11pm.
When reached for comment, the Town Clerk, Hosiah Chisango confirmed that the deal was no longer being spearheaded by council.
“We are going to engage the Ministry of Local Government as they are in charge of Zupco and would also be in charge of the solar bus fleet,” he said.