Lupane gas project delays unwarranted

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THE confusion surrounding the exploitation of gas in Lupane would once again raise questions about the government’s commitment to developing the Matabeleland region.

Zimbabwe has vast unexploited gas reserves in the Hwange/Lupane basin estimated at over 23 billion cubic feet, which is viewed by experts as the solution to the country’s energy woes.

The exploitation of gas by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has remained on paper for years.

Gas was actually discovered years before diamonds were found in Manicaland where mines were developed within a short space of time.

IDC managing director Mike Ndudzo last week revealed that the slow progress in the exploitation of the Lupane gas reserves was because of confusion in government.

He said three ministries — Mining, Energy and Industry — disagreed over who should be responsible for the project.

This has made it difficult for the Lupane Gas Development Company formed by the IDC 10 years ago to attract investors for the project.

Ndudzo reportedly said the IDC was told to forget about the project during the inclusive government era. If such a directive was issued, the government owes the people of Matabeleland North a serious explanation.

Besides being a potential big employer, the gas project would change the economy of the region almost overnight.

The project would also be a big boost to the faltering economy as Zimbabwe is bound to reduce electricity imports significantly once gas becomes an alternative energy source.

Sadly the exploitation of gas in Lupane now mirrors the long awaited Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project that has been in the pipeline since 1912.

Since independence the government has paid lip service to this project, which could be the answer to the rapid deindustrialisation of Bulawayo and rampant unemployment.

President Robert Mugabe has to put his house in order and resolve the unnecessary bickering by his ministers to ensure that the Lupane gas project is back on stream.

Anything less than a swift implementation of the project would lend credence to claims that Mugabe’s regime has never been interested in developing Matabeleland.