WATER Resources Development and Management minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo has accused trustees of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) of abusing trust funds, thereby stalling implementation of the multi-million-dollar water project.
REPORT BY KHANYILE MLOTSHWA STAFF REPORTER
Sipepa Nkomo made the startling claims during a public meeting organised by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association on Saturday, but declined to give specific details, except to say the scam involved high-profile politicians.
The minister was responding to questions from a resident, who wanted clarification on what had happened to funds contributed by various individuals and companies towards the trust fund.
“There was a high abuse of funds involving highly-placed people in that project. During the audit that we instituted, it was discovered that really bad things happened, it was so tough that even at the end the (Comptroller and) Auditor-General withdrew from the process,” he said.
“I then went to the President (Robert Mugabe) and told him that it seems like the whole audit process was meant to involve me in high politicians’ fights. That way I managed to recuse myself from the whole thing. There are some very big people involved in abusing funds in that project.”
However, Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust chairperson Dumiso Dabengwa would not say much when contacted yesterday, only responding: “It’s difficult to say much. I am not privy to what he (Sipepa Nkomo) said and have no intention of doing that (comment).”
Sipepa Nkomo said the project had now received enough funding from China, which would not warrant contributions from the public. The MZWP recently received a boost after a Chinese firm pledged a $1,6 billion cash injection with $800 million already secured for the project.
“About that money, the money you contributed, you will have to talk to the people that you gave the money to,” Sipepa Nkomo said. “The truth is that you will never hear me come to you (members of the public) and ask for money.”
The MZWP is an ambitious project to draw water from the Zambezi River to the City of Bulawayo, which is currently experiencing serious water shortages that have seen residents getting supplies only three times a week.
The project has been on the drawing board for 100 years due to government red tape and shortage of funds to bankroll it.