MATABELELAND South Senator Bheki Sibanda has called for the resuscitation of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), saying authorities must recover the estimated lost $15 billion in diamond revenue and allocate part of it to the long-mooted project.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
In a parliamentary motion on Tuesday, seconded by Midlands Senator Lillian Timveos, Sibanda said MZWP requires regular budget allocations, and urged authorities to seek external funding or explore the build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) option.
“I suggest the government find the culprits that stole the $15 billion worth of diamonds revenue and any other funds that have been looted. Out of that, allocate $3 billion to the MZWP for its completion,” he said.
The project, which was mooted in 1912 by colonialists, is expected to bring relief to Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region, where perennial water problems are partly blamed for de-industrialisation.
Government now targets 2018 for completion of the project at a total cost of $1,2 billion, but doubts linger owing to the long history of missed targets. Sibanda said resuscitating the MZWP is far more strategic than putting up a Parliament building and relocating from Harare to Mt Hampden, before asking where a 2012 Chinese $1,2 billion deal to fund the project “disappeared to”.
In December 2012, then Water Resources minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo announced a contract between the government and the Chinese Import and Export Bank, where the Asian institution pledged to support the project with a $1,2 billion loan.
“My first proposal is that government should commit 10% of annual revenue collections, not budgetary figures, to this project. I also believe that anything less would be unreasonable considering the lapse of time,” Sibanda said.
“Secondly, I urge the government to speedily find partners to co-fund this project. Thirdly, the government should consider a BOT if they cannot do any of the others.”
In support, Timveos said there is need to prioritise Matabeleland region, which has had water challenges for several decades, through the MZWP.
“The Matabeleland region is suffering. The industries have closed. Bulawayo used to be known as Kontuthu Ziyathunqa, but there is nothing like that now,”she said.
“If the MZWP had to be resumed and become a reality, Bulawayo will be definitely full of activities with our people earning a living in irrigation, farming and industry.”