Zambezi Water Project: What Is Going On?

Some time in the last century Matabeleland North announced an ambitious project to draw water from the Zambezi River to the Gwayi-Tshangani dam. It is meant to deal with the perennial water shortage of water in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bualwayo.

At various points we have been told that it has started. The Gwayi-Shangani dam’s construction started in 2004 but as recently as last month there was talk of work starting by end of April, after Chinese funds were secured. That announcement was made by Water Resources Development and Management Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo. The same minister had said in March last year that the same project would be commencing with the help of some investors he was not keen to name.

We really wonder what it is going on because the stories are just too many. Meanwhile chronic water shortages bedevil Bulawayo. And as the project takes longer the costs get out of control. The bill was originally meant to be US$600 million. We hear the Chinese have put up US$900 million. We wonder what it will be by then.

The other thing of concern is whether it is just Chinese funds that are being used and not Chinese engineers as well. We all know that money always comes with strings attached. That is to say, Chinese money and Chinese contractors. It’s keeping the money in the family. Sadly we all know about Chinese engineers and poor workmanship on dams.

Then of course there is the fight between the government and the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust over ownership of the project. The government has taken over implementation but MZWT’s head Dumiso Dabengwa says that his organisation holds the keys to its success.

Sometimes you just wonder…