Matabeleland stakeholders on Friday lashed out at the government for failing to commit funds to the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) and for sidelining its founding body, the Dumiso Dabengwa-led Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT) for political reasons.
The NMZWP is seen as the panacea to Bulawayo’s perennial water woes.
Stakeholders from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South provinces expressed these sentiments during a one-day stakeholders’ conference attended by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Armstrong Sibindi from the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association said the government should change its attitude towards the project and the Matabeleland region.
“The biggest challenge in this country has been attitudes,” Sibindi said.
“The biggest reason why we do not have water in Matabeleland is because of attitudes and this needs to change, especially at government level.”
Stakeholders also expressed their disagreement with the renaming of the project by prefixing the name with the word “national”.
“We, as people of Matabeleland, are not happy with the inclusion of the word ‘national’ and we know that the inclusion of that word means that there are now too many cooks who will definitely spoil the broth,” said a stakeholder.
Gorden Moyo, the State Enterprises and Parastatals minister, concurred.
“I heard the concerns of the people of Matabeleland about the issue of ‘nationalising’ the project,” he said. “Your fears are not misplaced because of the history of nationalising projects.
“However, on the other hand it was good (to rename it that way) so that the government becomes accountable to the people on the progress of the NMZWP.”
Moyo added that the country should use its natural resources to complete the project.
“There are resources in this country and in this region that have been extracted to develop other regions,” said Moyo.
“Those regions should now plough back into Matabeleland. Resources from the Chiadzwa (diamond) fields should also be used to make this dream become a reality.” His remarks were met with thunderous applause.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who officially opened the conference, said the political dispensation of the country should be such that it is able to protect potential investors in the mammoth water project.
“The political uncertainty of any country chases away potential investors,” Tsvangirai said.
“Because of the long-term nature of the project, it must be protected by the future politics of the country for it (project) to succeed.”
Minister of Water Resources Development and Management, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, said the government was committed to implementing the project.
“The main objective and mandate of government is that water gets to the people of Matabeleland and we are committed to make sure that is done,” he said.
Stakeholders also pointed out that Dabengwa should have been invited to explain progress made by NMZWT in implementing the project.