NMZWP disaster

The People of Matabeleland will continue to go thirsty because of problems bedeviling the re-structured National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project.

In December 2009, the government approved the take-over of the NMZWP from the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust and the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project Trust Fund. Both organisations claimed responsibility for the project, chaired by Dumiso Dabengwa.

Although this development was welcomed by some as a step in the right direction, the takeover and re-christening of MZWP has brewed up a storm in the province. The Minister of Water and Infrastructure Development, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, has been accused of politicizing the project. He has denied the accusations, insisting the takeover will speed up its completion.

“NMZWP’s takeover is non-political and is meant to improve the supply of water to people of this region,” said Nkomo.

Members of the now-defunct trusts, including Dabengwa, have resisted the takeover, arguing that renaming the project would not add any value.

“The MZWT is still in office and oversees operations of the project, but I cannot comment on NMZWP’s operations,” Dabengwa recently said.

The regional manager of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Matabeleland, Bulisani Ncube, said the project’s name should not have been changed.

“We have the National University of Science and Technology and now we have NMZWP. Why don’t we have similar projects in other parts of the country referred to as national?” asks Ncube.

MDC-T spokesperson for Bulawayo, Mandla Sibanda, said there was nothing wrong with changing the name of the project.

“What is in a name? I think the inclusive government is now committed to this project,” he said. A resident, James Ndiweni, welcomed the formation of the NMZWP.

“The people of this region should be happy that the government is now in charge. The bodies that have been in charge of this project have all disappointed us. What have they done to bring water to Matabeleland?” Ndiweni asked.

As the bickering over the responsibility for the project drags on, the people of Bulawayo continue to face a water crisis. The Bulawayo City Council has embarked on water rationing. Industries in the city have either been forced to close or relocate due to the ongoing water shortages.

The construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a critical component of the project, also hangs in the balance after a coal mine was opened in the dam’s catchment area in May.

An environmental expert has warned that the dam and the mine cannot co-exist. “The mine will pollute water in the dam and part of the mine would be submerged,” he said.

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