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Sipepa Nkomo, Dabengwa clash over Zambezi water project

by Staff reporter
03 Apr 2012 at 03:31hrs | Views
A fresh war of words has erupted between Water Resources and Management Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo and the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT), with the latter accusing the former of frustrating his fundraising activities for the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP).

Two weeks ago Minister Nkomo announced that the Government had engaged China in a $900 million deal that would see the completion of the Gwayi-Shangani

Dam, a major component of the 450km pipeline, in the next three years.

Although the Government has taken over the implementation of the NMZWP from MZWT, the trust's chairman, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, last Thursday claimed his organisation still holds the keys to its success.

He spoke against the Chinese deal, saying the trust had managed to raise funding for the project but would not say how much had been raised, when and whom the funders were.

The NMZWP, which is estimated to cost about $1, 2 billion, was mooted in 1912.  Since then successive governments have tried to implement it without much success due to inadequate funding.

Dr Dabengwa accused Minister Nkomo of deliberately suffocating efforts by his organisation to fundraise for the project.  Minister Nkomo denies this.

Dr Dabengwa castigated Minister Nkomo for continuously "sidelining" the MZWT, which he said was a key stakeholder in the implementation of the project.

"Since 2004 we have been waiting to be granted a concession of methane gas, which would enable the project to be completed on time. To date nothing has been done. We are shocked that the Ministry of Water has thought it better to sign another deal with the Chinese ahead of us.

"We have repeatedly informed Minister Sipepa Nkomo about our plans. We told him that we have got funding for the project and that international investors have agreed to work with us," said Dr Dabengwa.

"These investors would also establish a power station in Jotsholo, Lupane and set up a fertilizer plant that would produce 600 000 metric tonnes of fertilizer, the bulk of which would be exported to the region.

"This is a community project for the people of Matabeleland but surprisingly Minister Nkomo went on to nationalise the project. As stakeholders we were not expecting that."

Dr Dabengwa said his organisation could not move ahead as it was still waiting for Minister Nkomo's response to their application.

"This project could be completed within a period of two years if due seriousness is given to it. The building of Gwayi-Shangani Dam can only take us a year while the pipeline can be tendered to several companies that can work on it quickly. The only thing we need is to get the grant for the concession.

"We met last year as a board but there is nothing new to discuss because Minister Nkomo has not responded to our concerns. We lobbied him to liaise with his counterparts in the Ministry of Mines over this issue," said Dr Dabengwa.

Contacted for comment Minister Nkomo denied having received any communication from the MZWT.  He insisted that the Government was moving ahead with the project and would not allow anything to derail it.

"I have heard this issue of concessions from the newspapers. Firstly, I have not received any application from the trust. Secondly no one has lobbied us about the project. Thirdly, the issue of a concession is a matter to be handled by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

"The MZWT is a private trust and the Government only took over the project and not the trust. We regard the trust as a stakeholder and when we made consultations with the stakeholders in Matabeleland, we consulted them," said Minister Nkomo.

MZWT secretary, who is also the Governor and Resident Minister for Matabeleland South province, Angeline Masuku, declined to comment on the issue.

"I am not in touch with the chairman of the trust and I cannot give you anything. You can talk to the chairman," she  said.

MZWT was registered in January 1998 and officially launched in Bulawayo as a public company in March of the same year.

Controversy started in 2010 when Minister Nkomo announced the takeover of the project from the trust before changing its name to National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project from  Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust.

The development drew the ire of stakeholders, among them politicians and civil society groupings who accused him of turning the project into a political gimmick.

The NMZWP is the long-term solution to Bulawayo's perennial water woes. The project would not only meet domestic and industrial water demand for the city, but would also boost the country's economy through agriculture and tourism activities along the pipeline.

Source - TC