THE 2018 completion of the much-talked about but stalled National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to end Bulawayo and the region’s water woes is among the major highlights of the ambitious list of infrastructural developments government has set itself in its latest economic blueprint — the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).
If completed the project, first mooted almost a century ago by the then Rhodesian government, would bring relief to Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region where perennial water problems have been partly blamed for de-industrialisation. It would also benefit residents who have had to go for 72 hours each week without water as part of stringent measures to manage a severe shortage caused by low inflows into the city’s supply dams.
But Dumisani Nkomo, Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer and spokesperson for the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum said while possible, “it is highly unlikely that government will complete the project by 2018 given its poor record of delivery in Matabeleland”.
“They will continue talking, but there is never any delivery or transparency in their activities; they should come clean about the deal they signed with the Chinese which was announced by (former water resources minister Samuel) Sipepa-Nkomo,” said Nkomo in an interview yesterday.
President Robert Mugabe campaigned for re-election in the July 31 elections promising Bulawayo and Matabeleland that, among other things, Zanu PF would bring water to the region and restore the city’s yester-year status as the industrial hub of the country.
“Our cities are dying,” Mugabe bemoaned. “Bulawayo was once a thriving industrial hub in the country, but now it has become a sorry industrial scrapyard.”
Other cities and rural communities would also benefit from the construction of large-scale projects under ZimAsset including the long-awaited Kunzvi Dam (Mashonaland East), Chivhu Dam, Tuli-Manyange Dam (Matabeleland South).
According to ZimAsset, water treatment plants and boreholes will either be constructed or refurbished in all the cities and provinces.
However, there are serious doubts the lofty projects will be funded as repeated efforts by government — which is broke and struggling to lure investors wary of its controversial empowerment policy — to secure loans have so far hit a brick-wall.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week made impassioned pleas to Western diplomats to normalise economic and political ties, telling them to channel development assistance through government rather than non-governmental associations.
Chinamasa is scheduled to visit China this month-end to seal a US$10 billion financial rescue package for Zimbabwe that ruling party Zanu PF believes will kick-start the economy.