Bulawayo city fathers have complained about being sidelined from key projects they initiated to develop the city.
They cite the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), which is supposed to provide a permanent solution to the city’s water problems, and the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative (TL-SDI), which is expected to spearhead economic development in the region, as examples.
The projects, they claim, have been taken over by the central government and the city fathers are now being kept in the dark about what is happening.
The city fathers are concerned that they are already behind in one of the key objectives of the TL-SDI, which was the twinning of cities in Limpopo Province and Matabeleland.
The town of Gwanda had already established twinning relations with Makado, formerly Louis Tritchard, while Beitbridge had gone in with Musina, formerly Messina. Victoria Falls Municipality and Gwanda Rural District Council were engaged in similar contacts with their counterparts in Limpopo Province.
Though Bulawayo had made contacts with Polokwane, formerly Pietersburg, the capital of Limpopo Province, Councillor Matson Hlalo said he was disappointed by the TL-SDI project because there were no tangible benefits so far for the grassroots people of Bulawayo in terms of investment, joint ventures and other economic development projects.
He said newcomers seemed to be hogging the limelight ahead of Bulawayo, which was one of the initiators of the project.
But the biggest contention seems to be centred on the MZWP, which the Limpopo Province also considers pivotal to the development of the region because it is also drought-prone. Limpopo Province is reported to be keen to see the implementation of the project and how it can be integrated to its water requirements.
City engineer, Peter Sibanda, said it was now unclear who was responsible for the implementation of the project, particularly the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a major component of the project.
The contract to build the dam was awarded to China International Water and Electric Corporation for a bid price of US$40.9 million by Hope Mount Services, a company owned by the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust. The dam was to be built on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement.
An agreement giving the contractor the go-ahead was signed by the government and Hope Mount Services on May 15 last year with disbursement of the US$50 million required to construct the dam expected in 60 days. The amount was never disbursed.
The contractor was instead advanced $300 million, which it was supposed to pay back once Hope Mount Services obtained the necessary foreign funding. The contractor used the money to set up prefabricated houses as part of the site establishment.
In January this year the Ministry of Finance committed the government to financing the construction of the dam, making the government the client instead of Hope Mount Services.
But Hope Mount Services received $10 billion from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe under its productive sector facility for the construction of the dam, once again making it the client.
It is therefore unclear what will happen if the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust fails to raise the US$50 million required for the project by the end of this month.
While the dithering continues, Bulawayo is facing a serious water crisis. The city is supplied by five dams and 68 boreholes but the dams can only provide 112 475 cubic metres of water a day while the daily demand is 141 000 cubic metres.
The council said that Umzingwane Dam, one of the major suppliers, was only 6.4 percent full.
Though it is smaller than some of the major supply dams such as Insiza and Inyankuni, it plays a major role because its effective yield is higher than that of the bigger dams.
Besides only five of the 68 boreholes are operating.
The council said the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani dam, which is 250 km from the city, was therefore crucial for the city.
It is therefore requesting a meeting with the minister who replaces former Water Resources Minister Joyce Mujuru who has now been elevated to the vice presidency.