ZIMBABWEANS yesterday basked in the glory of the country’s achievements as President Mugabe held a ground-breaking ceremony for the $984 million Beitbridge-Harare Highway and commissioned the $300 million Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, both poised to help turnaround the economy. Thousands of people — among them villagers, politicians and businesspeople — attended both ceremonies, with the ground-breaking ceremony for the highway being held at Chaka Growth Point in Chirumanzu in the Midlands Province, and the commissioning of the dam in Chivi in southern Masvingo.
So united were Zimbabweans from all walks of life who gathered at Gonawapotera Secondary School at Chaka Growth Point and at the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam site to witness the ceremonies.
Intriguing are positive economic benefits to be drawn by the country in terms of business and the curbing of road carnage, as well as thousands of jobs to be created by the dam that is poised to be the largest inland water source.
The road project has been in the pipeline for the past six years, while Zimbabweans endured a long wait of over 18 years for Tokwe-Mukosi Dam to be completed.
Gonawapotera Secondary School grounds were filled up by 9am, with people streaming in to witness the event from various places across the country.
There was entertainment galore from groups that included the Police Band and ZCC Brass Band, while schoolchildren recited poems praising President Mugabe for his visionary leadership.
Some also held prayers in memory of thousands of people that have perished on the highway, especially those that were burnt to death when South African bound Proliner bus was side-swiped by a haulage truck at Nyamatikiti River recently.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Jaram Gumbo said the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare and Harare–Chirundu highways would be done in phases, with the first phase being the one that was launched yesterday.
“The project will be broken into two segments, the first one is Beitbridge to Harare and the second will be Harare to Chirundu, which include the Harare ring road,” he said. “The Beitbridge to Harare road will be constructed through PPP, while the Harare to Chirundu road will be through a loan.”
Chairperson of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development Cde Dexter Nduna said the project would change the livelihoods of many.
“As a committee, we are elated at the developments we have witnessed because the road had become a highway of death,” he said. “As you know, three quarters of the deaths that occur on the country’s roads everyday occur on this road because of its thinness and unevenness.
“What we also witnessed is Zim-Asset in action as this is one of the major infrastructure development projects identified in the policy document. Since 40 percent of the value of the project is earmarked for indigenous players, I foresee a lot of downstream economic activity emanating from this project.”
At Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, people from various walks of life converged at the dam site to witness the first steps in Masvingo’s slow, but sure journey towards becoming Zimbabwe’s irrigation hub.
Tokwe-Mukosi Dam is touted as a panacea to Masvingo’s recurrent droughts that have earned the province the tag of being the country’s basket case.
The was joy and jubilation on the faces of thousands of people who thronged the confluence of Tokwe and Mukosi rivers to witness the commissioning of the country’s new dam.
Their faces told a story of a people imbued with hope that the wheels needed to stimulate their socio-economic transformation had started to turn.
Tokwe-Mukosi Dam had taken close to two decades to complete after construction started in 1998 and hope of seeing the dam coming on board had evaporated from the hearts of many.
As Maringire Primary School traditional dance troupe performed before thousands who braved the hot temperatures in Gororo communal lands, singing ‘’Wezhira, Wezheve, WekuMazhanje haachina zhara,’’ it was clear that an air of relief had engulfed the people of Masvingo.
Now, Zimbabwe’s largest inland dam with a full capacity of 1,8 billion cubic metres, Tokwe-Mukosi’s completion has raised hopes of massive socio-economic transformation mainly in the arid districts of southern Masvingo.
Mr Mukomba Gororo, who is Headman Neruvanga in charge of the area where Tokwe-Mukosi Dam is located, said he was elated.
“I never thought I would be alive to witness the completion of such a huge dam in my area after work started in 1998 and faced many challenges, creating doubts in many people that Tokwe-Mukosi Dam would ever be completed,’’ he said.
‘’A new era beckons for the people of Chivi and Masvingo in general and I want to pay special tribute to President Mugabe and his government for making the Tokwe-Mukosi dream a reality.”
His counterpart, Chief Shindi, Mr John Chikwiriro, said the scourge of hunger and grinding poverty that was synonymous with Chivi District was now a thing of the past.
‘’My humble appeal is that Government should not waste time while people continue to starve because of unreliable rains that always cause droughts,” he said. “Real work to develop irrigation should start now.
“We are happy that our people will get jobs because there is potential for big investments at this dam and surrounding areas. There will be a permanent greenbelt around this dam because of this new dam.’’
Tokwe-Mukosi Dam is currently 70 percent full having, collected nearly 1,2 billion cubic metres of water in just less than four months.
The dam has potential to irrigate 25 000 hectares, with vast tracts of land in Chivi, Mwenezi, Chiredzi and Matibi 2 being targeted for large-scale irrigation development because of the areas’ flat and rich soils.
A $400 million ethanol plant is planned at Nuanetsi Ranch, thanks to Tokwe-Mukosi Dam water.
A conurbation stretching from Chiredzi to Mwenezi is envisaged once Tokwe-Mukosi reaches its full irrigation potential, while sugar cane production in the Lowveld is expected to shoot up by 15 percent, catapulting Zimbabwe into a major sugar-producing giant in the region.
Besides tourism opportunities at the scenic Tokwe-Mukosi Dam that is tucked in a mountainous topography suitable for casinos and hotels, opportunities abound for a vibrant fisheries industry.
A planned mega-national park around the reserviour will widen the tourism tourism spectacle.