Water Development and Management minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo announced last week the proposed takeover of the project from the MZWT saying it had now been accorded the political will it lacked over the years.
But Dumiso Dabengwa, chairperson of the MZWT, said the move to take over the “people’s initiative is not acceptable”.
“We are surprised by Sipepa Nkomo’s latest move to take over the Zambezi Water Project. He never discussed with us before taking the decision to nationalise the project,” Dabengwa told the Zimbabwe Independent in Bulawayo this week.
He said they “are waiting for an explanation from minister Nkomo on the whole saga before considering what to say or do” adding that “stakeholders are naturally angry that such a demoralising decision and announcement about their project could be made without their input, let alone their knowledge”.
Dabengwa said it was clear from the outset of the project that “government would facilitate the process but a complete takeover of a people’s initiative, regional initiative — no — it’s not acceptable”.
The former Home Affairs minister said it seemed Nkomo was “operating against the grain by seeking to nationalise regional projects at a time when everyone else has seen the need for devolution”.
Last week, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga urged Zimbabweans to talk openly about the devolution of power to provinces saying there were “no sacred cows” in the constitution-making process.
The ambitious project seeking to end perennial water shortages in Matabeleland by drawing water from the Zambezi River was first mooted in 1912.
Unreliable water supply, especially in Bulawayo, has forced many companies or potential investors to relocate to Harare and other provinces.
Dabengwa, the interim leader of the revived PF Zapu, said the MZWT was hoping that the fragile inclusive government which “has new players who claim to appreciate the cause of Matabeleland better would encourage continuity in efforts to find a permanent solution to the perennial water problems in the region, but Nkomo announcement has taken us aback”.
He said Nkomo and his ministry were yet to inform his trust of their decision.
“MZWT hopes this level of disrespect and disregard for others displayed by minister Nkomo stops. We are waiting for an explanation from Nkomo on the whole saga before considering what to say or do,” Dabengwa said. “We can only speculate as to the motive of the so-called nationalisation of the project. We hope this has nothing to do with political rivalry… and people of Matabeleland need not suffer any longer due to their political affiliation.”
Nkomo said lack of clear funding procedures had resulted in the delay in implementation of the project, which is one of the reasons government wanted to take over.
Although government had no money to commence the project, Nkomo said discussions were on with private players willing to join central government in implementing the scheme.
However, Dabengwa said international investors whom MZWT had been working with have been unsettled by government’s move.
“Potential investors whom we have been working with are now sceptical about the nationalisation issue. But as MZWT we are assuring them that the project would not be nationalised,” he said.
He said government failed to provide mandatory guarantees for loans “causing all our plans to fail”.
“The trust also applied for coal mining concessions mainly around the Gwayi-Shangani Dam site in Lubimbi and Lusulu areas. We have partners keen on coal mining who are willing to fund the completion of the dam whilst mining coal,” Dabengwa said.
He said once they get concessions, investors “would immediately fund the completion of the dam as they also would need water for coal beneficiation”.