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'Bulawayo industries revival hinges on secure water sources'

by Staff reporter
06 Oct 2022 at 06:02hrs | Views
BULAWAYO residents have advocated for the allocation of more resources towards the speedy completion of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani project, setting up a special fund for the revival of Bulawayo industries coupled with the reduction of taxes and increase in pension payouts.

The resuscitation of industries that will lead to employment creation hinges on secure water sources, residents said yesterday during the 2023 national budget consultation process.

Participants acknowledged efforts made by the Government in easing water challenges in Bulawayo but called for the allocation of more resources towards water provision in Bulawayo.

They said as the city expands, there is a need for allocation of more funds to upgrade the water reticulation systems.

Once completed the project will provide a permanent solution to Bulawayo's perennial water challenges and lead to vibrant irrigation production for communities along the pipeline.

This will go a long way in enhancing national food security and the Government has identified land for the programme.

Speaking during the public hearing organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development, Bulawayo United Residents Association chairman, Mr Winos Dube said resources must be availed to fast-track the Lake Gwayi-Shangani completion.

"As Bulawayo residents, our key focus is to see this major water project that will save Bulawayo being completed. Therefore, Government should make frantic efforts in the 20123 national budget to allocate more resources," said Mr Dube.

The construction of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani, a major component of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, is among the flagship projects being undertaken by the Government.

Lake Gwayi-Shangani construction is expected to provide a permanent water solution for Bulawayo and Matabeleland region.

Mr Dube said the budget should address the revival of Bulawayo's industries by creating a special fund.

"It is our call to the Government to provide funding towards reviving industries and avoid the use of industrial spaces by church groups.

"Once industries are revived and working efficiently, that would boost the economy and the impact or benefits would be felt countrywide," said Mr Dube.

A resident, Mr Ndlovu also said efforts to complete Lake Gwayi-Shangani projects should be accelerated as it would spur industrial development.

For that to happen, the national budget should avail more funding. "This is a national project which will not only benefit parts of Matabeleland North and Bulawayo. The benefits of the projects are immense and the Government should allocate more resources."

A youth participant said the "take over" of the Belmont industrial zone by religious groups was worrying and should be looked into.

"We are concerned that the industrial space is fast shrinking as the industrial infrastructure is now occupied by church organisations. Industrial areas should be left to the productive sector to utilise and part of it should be set aside as working spaces for youths to set up factories."

Social welfare safety nets particularly pensioners' pay-out and establishment of unemployment benefit funds also came out strongly during the meeting.

Participants said National Social Security Authority (NSSA) should be capacitated to be in a position to increase monthly pay-outs.

 Mr Dube who is also the national chairman for the Zimbabwe National Pensioners Forum Trust said the membership is expecting the budget to peg monthly pay-outs to at least US$150.

"We once requested NSSA to at least push us to a least US$150 a month. This would give sustainability to pensioners. Globally, the minimum payout is US$60, so in the 2023 budget, Government should cushion NSSA so that pensioners are also cushioned.

"Due to inflation, when we receive our pay-outs and compare with the running rate, we are below US$30, hence we are calling for US$150 per month."

Other issues raised include sanitary wear affordability where residents said students should access them freely in schools and vulnerable women should be able to buy them at an affordable price.

Ms Thandekile, a resident from Makokoba said, "There should be a tax rebate for sanitary wear and this can help in terms of affordability also schools should be able to assist students who cannot afford it.

"This can help to improve sanitation in our communities as we know that there is also a water challenge," she said.

Other participants called for the establishment of an unemployment benefit fund to cushion the unemployed residents across all age groups.

The disabled community said a fund should be created targeting the establishment of factories that manufacture wheelchairs, crutches and other apparatus used by the disabled. "The budget should consider mobility aid to people with disability and also we need tax rebates for things such as crutches so that they can be accessible and available to anyone who needs them," said Dr Thabani Moyo who was representing people with disability.

 Another participant appealed for the setting up of a factory in Bulawayo that manufactures wheelchairs and other apparatus used by the disabled.

"That would be possible through allocating funds in the social welfare sector. We are losing money by importing these gadgets. There is a demand that can sustain such factories," she said.

A youth representative, Mr Clifford Nkomo called for an increase in youth empowerment funds and transparency in disbursement.

 He said the country is losing a lot of talented youths to other countries due to a lack of funding.

The public hearings, which seek to strengthen Parliament and citizens' role in the formulation of the national budget, are conducted every year in fulfilment of Section 28 (5) of the Public Finance Management Act

Source - The Chronicle