From George Maponga in Masvingo
The street lighting system in Masvingo is set for an overhaul after the city council sealed a $4 million solar street lighting deal that will see nearly 580 solar street lights installed in the country’s oldest city by December this year. Council recently issued a Christian-based youth organisation, Joshua Generation, a 15-year licence to install solar street lights. The youth organisation is named after the late Father Zimbabwe and veteran nationalist, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.
Joshua Generation, which is working on the project with Old Mutual and an unnamed Chinese company, will install the street lights for free and recoup their costs through advertising space on the street lights.
Work on the project has already begun with digging of trenches for the initial 28 double armed solar street lights on Robert Mugabe Way.
Joshua Generation chairperson and founder Mr Xavier Mzembi yesterday expressed delight at the solar street lighting project in Masvingo saying their goal was to expand and cover other parts of the country.
“We got a 15-year licence to install solar street lights in Masvingo where we have set a target to install 578 street lights by year end and we are working in partnership with Old Mutual and a Chinese company,’’ he said.
“We have a licence for a similar project in Harare where we are going to install street lights along Simon Mazorodze Road. Our goal is to spread tentacles and expand to other parts of Zimbabwe,’’ he added.
Mr Mzembi said the Joshua Generation had a membership of 2 500 youths who made a once off contribution of $30 each to finance the solar street light project in Masvingo.
The youth organisation plans to grow its membership to 12 000 by the end of this year.
“We are a Christian-based youth business consortium and we want more youths in churches to come on board because we have struck a deal with Old Mutual where we raise money and invest in unit trusts and they meet us half way by chipping in with the same amount that we raise as youths,’’ he said.
Mr Mzembi said there was consensus within the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment that the way forward to fund youth projects was by putting money into youth consortiums and not individuals.
He said the high loan default rate of up to 90 percent in youths who receive money from Government and other funders had inspired the push towards funding youth consortiums.
“There is consensus that youths with similar business ideas as ours (solar street lighting system) should form consortiums for them to receive funding because individuals are failing to repay loans.
“We are spreading the gospel of the need for youths to come together and form consortiums to get funding,’’ he added.
Joshua Generation falls under the Zimbabwe Youth Council and Youth and Indigenisation Deputy Minister Mathias Tongofa is its patron.
A Masvingo city full council meeting recently approved the $4 million solar street lighting project touting it as a milestone in efforts to revive the street lighting system.