TRANSPORT and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu has revealed that he ordered a Chinese contractor working on the expansion of the Victoria Falls to dismiss most of its workers from the Asian country that were employed at the expense of locals.
Mpofu told a Zanu PF interprovincial meeting on Saturday in Bulawayo that the company, which he did not name, had more Chinese workers than locals.
“I once visited the airport and asked the contractor to show me his workers,” he said. “They lined them up and there were more Chinese people than locals.”
He said the company had also brought in general hands from China.
“They are gone now and we have more of our people working there,” he said. “Our people need to stand up and be counted.”
Mpofu said his ministry had a number of infrastructural development projects that would be implemented under the government’s latest economic blueprint — ZimAsset — and foreign companies that want to participate should have proof of participation by local people.
Chinese contractor, Jiangsu, was given the contract to upgrade the Victoria Falls Airport and the $150 million project that started in February last year includes construction of a 4km-long runway, a new international terminal building and an upgraded domestic terminal building.
When complete, the airport would have a new fire station, new control tower and state-of-the-art aviation equipment as well as have enough capacity for wide bodied aircrafts and to handle 1,5 million tourists annually.
The government has been often criticised for overly relying on Chinese investors whom critics say never do enough to involve locals in mega projects.
Mpofu said his ministry would support the ongoing Routes Africa conference in Victoria Falls to lure more airlines to fly to Zimbabwe and use the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
The Zanu PF indaba was also attended by Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni and Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora.
Kasukuwere promised that the long touted Matabeleland Zambezi Water project would be completed by 2016.
Nyoni urged small-to-medium businesses to register their business for easy networking while Mombeshora encouraged farmers to venture into contract farming and forge joint partnerships.
Momeshora said the country was losing $2 million every month through the importation of milk.