Gwayi-Shangani dam on hold as costs escalate

The costs of the of the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani dam are expected to soar to astronomic levels following the back-filling of the foundation of the dam’s wall foundation caused by running water.

Former environment minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo : I secured $864 million from the Chinese Exim Bank to complete the project.
Former environment minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo : I secured $864 million from the Chinese Exim Bank to complete the project.

Officials of China International Water and Electric (CWE), the company contracted by government to construct the dam, told The Zimbabwean this week that the company would be forced to re-excavate the dam wall at an extra cost that was not budgeted for.

“We completed excavation works for the dam wall towards elections in 2013. During that period, high powered government officials visited the site and promised to release enough money for the completion of the project. But soon after the elections no one talked about the project any more and as I speak with you the foundation for the wall has silted due to flowing water,” said a source at the site who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

He said this was the third time that the dam‘s foundation has back-filled since the construction of the dam started in earnest in 2007. The dam is a major component of the long–awaited Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP).

Stand-by charges

The cash strapped Zimbabwe government, which suspended the project soon after the 2013 elections due to financial challenges, is also said to be incurring monthly contractor’s stand-by charges.

“The Chinese contractor is obviously happy with the suspension of the project because the company is billing the government for stand-by charges for its engineers and expensive machinery which is on site. I cannot give you off-hand the monthly figures, what I know is that the money is quite substantial,” said another source at the site.

On June 6 last year, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, pledged $10 million after touring the project – but the disbursement of that money has remained a pipe dream.

Last year Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the government needed about $90 million to complete the dam but the figure is likely to triple considering the unbudgeted costs the project has incurred so far.

Kasukuwere’s predecessor, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, accused the government of diverting money he claimed to have secured from China for the project during his tenure as Water Affairs minister.

“During my tenure, I negotiated $864 million from the Chinese Exim Bank to complete the project. I signed everything on behalf of the government and handed all the information to Kasukuwere when I left government. I am now shocked to hear that there is no money for the project,” said Nkomo in an interview.

According to Donald Khumalo, the chairman of the advisory committee on the Matabeleland Water Project, the dam was supposed to be completed this year. It is the first phase of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project. The second phase will involve the connection of the dam to a Bulawayo pipeline while the final phase will be the connection of the Zambezi river pipeline.

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