By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Government has given back ownership of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) to Matabeleland Collective (MC) and its technical partner, the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT).
The government took over the MZWP from the Dumiso Dabengwa-led MZWT in 2012 in line with a Cabinet decision made in 2004.
The government has been channelling funds to the trust so that it spearheads the project, whose construction was said to be moving at a snail’s pace, with reports suggesting that funds were being looted, forcing the Water and Lands ministry to take over control of the project
The Matabeleland Collective, a grouping of Matabeleland-based civic groups and clergy on Wednesday, however, announced that government had given back ownership weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to facilitate the quick implementation of the water project.
The development followed a meeting the MC had with Mnangagwa at State House in Bulawayo in March, where the President also promised to address the Gukurahundi mass killings through exhumations and reburials, and attend to the region’s underdevelopment issues, among other promises.
“In returning ownership of the project to Matabeleland, MC expects increased zeal and energy to development in the region as power over this project has now devolved.
“Permanent secretary engineer Ringson Chitsiko from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement pledged (in a meeting held on Wednesday with MC) that government will continue to support all the efforts of MC and its technical partners, including continuing to source funding partners, but that true ownership of the project is the communities resident in Matabeleland as was originally conceptualised by MZWT and residents of the provinces,” MC announced in a statement.
The ambitious project to pipe water from the mighty Zambezi River, 452km away to Bulawayo, in a bid to ease perennial water shortages in Matabeleland, was first mooted in 1912, but abandoned by successive governments due to the high costs involved.
“MC requested the return of the project as part of its “Compensatory Development Devolution (CDD) model, which is a unique and new approach that will be an important vehicle to bring the project alive in all its phases.
“MC and MZWT will now formalise their implementation role of the project with government and Zinwa, and provide institutional arrangements and confirm funding frameworks and modalities that put people of Matabeleland at the centre of this development,” MC added.