Farirai Machivenyika in CHIRUMANZU and George Maponga in CHIVI—
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday commissioned $1,3 billion mega-projects, with potential to significantly transform the domestic and regional economy. The mega-projects, both a boon to Zim-Asset’s infrastructure and utilities cluster, are the $250 million Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Chivi and the $1 billion dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare Highway, the economic corridor into southern Africa.
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The ground-breaking ceremony for the dualisation of the $984 million Beitbridge–Harare Highway, a stone’s throw from the site of the bus inferno that claimed over 30 lives before Easter, is bound to not only reduce road carnage, but also boost the region’s economic fortunes by expediting overland freight.
The commissioning of the 1,8 billion cubic-metre Tokwe Mukosi Dam, the largest inland dam in the country, is expected to not only transform the semi-arid province into a greenbelt, but also significantly feed into the tourism and processing and manufacturing industries courtesy of the hydro-power station set to be installed on the left bank and which is expected to 15 feed Megawatts into the national grid.
The mega-dam, which took 18 years to complete and is 70 percent full, is expected to supply water to irrigate over 25 000 hectares, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs.
President Mugabe’s first stop was at the ground-breaking ceremony for the dualisation of Harare-Masvingo Highway held at Gonawapotera Secondary School near Chaka Business Centre in Chirumanzu District, Midlands Province.
“The ground-breaking ceremony is a major breakthrough as Zimbabwe forges ahead with the implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation, our economic blueprint since 2013,” President Mugabe said to applause.
“The Harare-Beitbridge Road is a project being undertaken through a Private Public Partnership with Geiger International (from Austria).”
The highway, President Mugabe said, was not only strategic to Zimbabwe but the Sadc region as a whole.
“As will be appreciated, this road is very strategic, not only to Zimbabwe, but also to the Sadc region and part of the North-South Corridor,” he said.
“The road, therefore, needs to meet international standards in order to maintain the traffic volumes on this busiest corridor in the region.
“We all expect nothing, but a modern high quality highway, which matches similar highways elsewhere, including those in developed countries.”
The President said illegal economic sanctions regime imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries over a decade ago, had taken a toll on infrastructure.
“Because our country has been under sanctions for more than a decade and a half, our infrastructure has deteriorated,” he said.
“We face several challenges in our attempts to secure lines of credit. Thus, when funding such as that for this project has been secured, we cannot ever afford to maintain a business as usual approach.”
President Mugabe said infrastructure development was expensive, hence whenever the country undertook such projects, there was need to do a high quality job.
“Substandard work should never be tolerated,” he said.
“In this regard, I call upon the relevant ministry to strictly supervise the construction works.”
Indigenous companies are expected to benefit from the construction of the highway as required under the country’s empowerment policies.
“As Government, we made it a precondition to the award of this contract that a minimum of 40 percent of the work be reserved for local contractors,” he said.
“This is in line with our indigenisation and economic empowerment drive. I thus urge all contractors to form consortiums and mergers so that some of them may fully participate in this project.
“This project should indeed be a game changer of the economy as we expect it to have a significant positive multiplier effect to the rest of the economy. I also want to urge all local companies that will be subcontracted for the implementation of this project not to produce sub-standard work.
“This will militate against our efforts of promoting indigenous involvement in large contracts. Further, I also urge suppliers of various inputs into this project not to out price themselves out of business. The focus should not be on short term benefits.”
Apart from local companies that would be contracted, the project will also see the employment of thousands of people.
“In terms of local community empowerment, the project if properly managed will employ tens of thousands of locals, including women, which is highly commendable,” said President Mugabe. “I also urge that the recruitment of local staff be done in a transparent manner.”
President Mugabe urged community leaders to take the lead in preserving the country’s infrastructure, saying vandalism had reached unprecedented levels countrywide.
He said the construction of the road came at a time there had been an increase in road accident fatalities on the highway due to increased pressure on the narrow road.
At least 30 people died recently near Chaka Growth Point when a bus they were travelling in was sideswiped by a haulage truck at Nyamatikiti River, with most of the victims being burn beyond recognition.
At the commissioning of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, President Mugabe said its completion was a master stroke on the part of the Zanu-PF Government.
Addressing thousands of people who attended the ceremony, President Mugabe said the dam was testament to Government’s resolve and innovation in the face of economic challenges caused by sanctions that made it hard to mobilise resources to timeously complete it.
‘’This monumental structure is the product of Zanu-PF, musangano une pfungwa dzemberi, hapana chiparty (among local opposition parties), chaigona kuita pfungwa dzakadai,” President Mugabe said, to applause from the crowd.
‘’It took time, but we knew the dam would be completed rigova nerubatsiro rwakakwana kuvanhu vekuno kuMasvingo, asi handivo chete vachabatsirikana, asi nyika yese. Vamwe vachabata hove, nyika yese vanenge vave kupemberera.’’
President Mugabe said Masvingo was going to be on the forefront of participating in the Command Agriculture, taking advantage of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam.
‘’We are celebrating the completion of the giant Tokwe-Mukosi Dam that is a monumental achievement, which will usher in a new trajectory for this drought prone Masvingo province,” he said. “The project demonstrates Government’s steadfastness and unflinching commitment towards the realisation of its people’s economic and social well-being.
‘’Ichi chipo (Tokwe Mukosi Dam) asi kwete chinobva kunaMwari, Mwari anotipa njere kuti tidzishandise tichivaka zvinhu zvakaita sedhamu iri, Mwari haasiriye akavaka dhamu. Akatipa pfungwa. Vamwe vanongoti tuzu, hapanawo pfungwa.
“Ngatiitewo malakes, ngatiite madhamu. However, after years of hard work, determination, commitment and un-wavering belief in ourselves, today we are here to witness and celebrate the commissioning of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam.’’
President Mugabe paid tribute to Salini Impregilo, the Italian firm that built the dam, for persevering to complete it under very difficult circumstances marked by erratic payments.
‘’Kuungana pano taunganidzwa nemvura iyi, handi rwizi urwu, ratova gungwa iri, saka tinofara nebasa rakaitwa,” he said. “Makore akawanda ange apfuura takatarisa kuti richapera rinhi dhamu iri. Takashingirira tichitsvaga tumari tichiisa kune veSalini (Impregilo) dzimwe nguva vomboramba, asi vakangozoramba vakashinga, so today (yesterday) is not only a day for us, but also to celebrate our joint partnership with Salini.
‘’We should thank our Italian friends (Salini) for their patience because even during the years when we could not pay them, they remained on the ground until the dam was finally completed.’’
President Mugabe said though Tokwe-Mukosi Dam had been on the cards since the pre-independence era, Government only started constructing the reserviour in 1998, but completion of the project was hamstrung by financial challenges.
He pointed out that the new dam would relieve existing dams such as Lake Mutirikwi by complementing irrigation water supplies to the Lowveld sugar cane plantations owned by Tongaat Hulett and model A2 cane farmers.
President Mugabe said it was heartening to note that Tokwe-Mukosi Dam would also create thousands of jobs through hotels and other tourism ventures that were being planned around the dam, where a mini-hydro power plant with a capacity to produce 15 megawatts of power would also be installed.
He challenged the Masvingo provincial leadership led by Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa, to ensure that families displaced by the newly completed dam also benefited from its water.
Speaking at the same event, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa hailed President Mugabe for working tirelessly to make sure Tokwe-Mukosi Dam was completed.
His counterpart, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko said Masvingo province was poised to become the country’s breadbasket through irrigation.
He said Government’s attention was now shifting towards completing Gwayi-Shangaan Dam in Matabeleland North.
Cabinet Ministers and seniors civil servants, among others delegates, attended the event.