This is not a Ndebele project – Nkomo

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The proposed takeover of the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project by the Government has caused a furore in the region as locals allege that this was a people’s project that was being taken over by the State.

NewsDay reporter Fortune Dlamini caught up with the Minister of Water Resources Development and Management, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo and interviewed him about the takeover bid.

Fortune Dlamini (FD): What exactly is the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP)?

Sipepa Nkomo (SP): The National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) involves Phase one, which is the construction of the Gwayi/Shangani Dam that is currently under 30 percent complete as was revealed in a recent evaluation exercise, contrary to the 60 percent initially announced.

Phase two is a 260km pipeline from the Gwayi-Shangani Dam to Bulawayo.

Phase three involves approximately 155km pipeline from the Zambezi River to Gwayi-Shangani Dam and Phase four will be the drawing of water from a reservoir in Bulawayo through a pipeline to Beitbridge.

FD: Why was the name changed from MZWP to National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Programme (NMZWP)?

SN: This was done to underscore the fact that this is a national project in Matabeleland. There is a wrong mentality that this is exclusively for Matabeleland, thus supposedly a Ndebele project, where other people have no stake whatsoever.

Tribal embankments created around the project have only served to isolate the project and delay its implementation.

FD: Why the takeover?

SN: The MZWP has always been a Government project but the MZWT was only allowed to lead and manage the project.

However, Government has since seen it fit to lead and manage the project for the following reasons: Firstly, the slow implementation of the project since it was first mooted in 1912 prompted Government to assume direct control of the project with the objective of giving it the urgency it deserves.

Secondly, the slow pace of project implementation has been as a result of limited Government and private funding and the current investment needed stands at $1.1 billion.

Thirdly, Phase three of the project requires the construction of a pipeline from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Shangani dam and for us as a country to draw water from the Zambezi River we need the consent of SADC states that we are currently engaging.

These can only be bilateral discussions thus the need for direct Government involvement.

FD: What alternative avenues have been put in place to ensure water supply to Bulawayo in the short to medium term?

SN: The Mtshabezi pipeline to Umzingwane Dam is my Ministry’s top most priority project under the uncompleted water supply schemes for 2010. The pipeline requires funding to the tune of $25 million, and under the 2010 budget, we were allocated $7 million and work on the pipeline has since resumed.

FD: Will this project outlast the GNU, in the event that the GNU collapses?

SN: Definitely the project will outlast the GNU.

My expectation is that we will be getting financial support now and again and ultimately the project will take longer, thus outliving the GNU.

But as I have already said, the project will be managed by Government albeit with the involvement of an independent supervisory body for oversight purposes and this body will have no bearing whatsoever to political developments in the country.

FD: Minister could you please explain the sudden ballooning of the cost of the project?

SN: There is certainly no deliberate inflation of the costs as is alleged by some misguided elements.

In fact inflating the costs would not be strategic on our part as it will only make the task of mobilising resources even more arduous. The $1.1 billion figure is a result of new costing done by my Ministry in partnership with independent engineers and economists.

The Gwayi-Shangani dam requires $50 million to complete while the 260km pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani dam to Bulawayo will cost $650 million calculated at $2.5 million per km.

The amount of $2.5 million per km is the standard SADC figure for similar projects. Phase three, which will entail drawing water most likely from Msuna mouth along Zambezi River to Gwayi-Shangani dam will cost $340 million calculated at $2.5 million per km.

Added together, these costs are just over $1 billion.