George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
The main contractor at Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Chivi South has started moving away major construction equipment amid reports the company wants Government to pay about $57 million before resumption of work.
The dam was set to be completed next month.
Construction at the dam stopped on December 18 last year after Government arrears to the Italian contractor, Salini Impregilio, rose to $84 million.
The dam is billed to become Zimbabwe’s largest inland water body with a capacity of 1,8 billion cubic metres.
About $30 million is required to finish the outstanding work at the dam that is about 90 percent complete.
Indications are that the dam might not be completed again this year as Government is battling to raise the $30 million required to finance outstanding work and also settle part of its debt to Salini Impregilio.
The contractor has since started moving some of the construction equipment such as excavators, tippers, front-end loaders and has already dismantled the crushing plant.
The equipment is reportedly being shipped to other construction projects in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.
Salini Impregilio has also since scaled down the size of its workforce at Tokwe-Mukosi Dam from over 400 full-time employees to just a team of five workers led by the project manager, Mr Paulo Lione.
When The Herald visited Tokwe-Mukosi Dam over the weekend, South African-registered haulage trucks were loading some of the construction equipment to the port of Durban.
The dam site was virtually deserted with entrances to the construction site locked and only employees from Zinwa, the project supervisor, were at the dam.
Sources at the dam said completion of the project this year depended on Zinwa securing a loan of $50 million from an unnamed South African financial institution.
“Nothing has been taking place here ever since Salini stopped work on 18 December last year, the contract is now on full suspension and the Italians have removed most of their workers to other projects and they are in the process of removing their equipment which is being shipped mainly to Ethiopia where they are building another dam,’’ said a source.
The sources said the water that will accumulate in the dam this year will be lost again unless Government paid Salini its dues.
They said there was still some oustanding work that needed to be carried out at the dam before it can safely store water.
“At the moment, the dam is in Salini Impregilio’s hands and they will only hand it over after completing it and this means until they hand it over to Zinwa no water can be stored there,” said the source.
Zinwa resident engineer at Tokwe-Mukosi Mr Paul Dengu said funding challenges were delaying completion of the dam.
“I cannot say much about developments at this project save to say that most of the equipment which Salini is moving from the dam site is no longer needed,” he said. “They cannot keep equipment which is no longer of use so I suppose they are taking it to their other projects.’’
Masvingo provincial affairs minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa said shortage of funding was behind the work stoppage at Tokwe-Mukosi.
“We have been speaking to the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate (Cde Saviour Kasukuwere) over the issue of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam many times, but the major challenge is lack of funds to complete the project,” she said.
“Funding is a challenge, but they are running around looking for money. We had hoped that the dam will be completed this year so that it can start storing water, but this may go up in smoke unless funds are found to complete this dam which will help about 35 000 families directly through irrigation in southern Masvingo.’’
Government was initially courting Lowveld sugar producer Tongaat Hulett for a $30 million loan to complete the dam, but talks reportedly collapsed over unknown reasons a few months ago.