Published On: Fri, Nov 27th, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: No sign of completion of key Zimbabwe dam

The Tokwe Mukorsi DamMASVINGO, (CAJ News) – ALMOST two decades characterised by lack of progress at a dam project south-east of Zimbabwe is hindering the country’s prospects of retaining the country’s previously envied status as the region’s Breadbasket.

The Tokwe Mukorsi Dam, the country’s biggest capital project in the 21st century, remains unfinished 17 years after work began, because of the financial problems Zimbabwe is currently experiencing.

In addition to the US$ 84million (about R1.260 billion) a contractor who has been on site over the years is owed, another $57 million is required to complete the project. Construction of the dam located about 72 kilometres south of Masvingo city started in June 1998.

On completion the dam will have the capacity of 1,9 billion cubic litres of water. The dam will also open up about 25 000 hectares of irrigation land and boosting water supplies in the sugar cane growing area of the country’s lowveld, as well as enabling exports.

Apart from providing water for irrigation, the country intends to generate about 50 megawatts of electricity thus boosting supplies in the Southern African country that has been grappling with a serious power shortage for over a decade.

A state-of-the-art hotel has also been on the cards and is envisaged to provide employment to more than 700 people. With the critically low water levels in the Kariba Dam set to worsen the power crisis, the completion of the dam has become imperative.

There are several hurdles nonetheless. The contractor, Salini Impregilo, an Italian company that the Zimbabwean government ahead of other construction companies because of its reputation in undertaking such huge projects, wants payment for its services.

It has since downed its tools arguing that it will only resume work when it is paid. The Italian company has since removed some of its equipment from the site. Apart from lack of funding, the project suffered another setback last year after flooding along the dam basin displaced more than 3 000 families.

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) Resident Engineer, Paul Dengu, said shortage of money to pay the contractor remained the biggest stumbling block.

“Once we get money we will be able to finish this dam in just less than three months because it is 90 percent complete,” said Dengu.

“The contractor is removing some of his equipment because it is no longer needed here because most of the work has been finished,” he said.

Zinwa and the Masvingo Provincial government are pinning their hopes on the national budget Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is set to announce before the end of the year.

“”Given that the dam is now almost 90 percent complete we hope that the finance minister will allocate enough money to finish the project when he presents his 2016 national budget.

“We have no one to blame but the state which has been allocating little money to this big project,” said Musana. Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister (Governor), Shuvai Mahofa, held similar hopes.

“We hope the finance minister will see reason and allocate all the funds needed for this project. The project will turn the whole of southern Zimbabwe green with beneficiaries being ordinary villagers and sugar cane farmers,” added Mahofa.

She added, “As the minister in this region where the dam is being constructed I am not happy at all that this project is yet to be finished 17 years later.”

Deadline for the dam completion had been set for November 2014 but it was not met due to underfunding, much to the disappointment of Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. “We need to be serious and finish this project in 2016. We cannot afford to spend almost two decades failing to complete the project. “We are going to use anything within our means to ensure that work is completed next year,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.

– CAJ News

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