George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
IN the coming few weeks, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa will be presenting the 2015/16 budget before Parliament. The presentation comes amid high expectations that the budget will provide the much needed impetus to spur economic growth and sustain
the ongoing thrust to lift the country’s economy out of the woods.
Zimbabwe is currently grappling with a debilitating power crisis that has compelled Government to prioritise development of new short and long term power plants.
The new power plants will hopefully ease the crisis that has badly affected production in industries and mines.
However, top on projects that should find financial space in Minister Chinamasa’s forthcoming budget should be development and rehabilitation of major dams and irrigation schemes in light of the increasing recurrence of droughts in Zimbabwe over the past decade.
Over the past few years, Government has been forced to divert resources meant for other important national projects to import food as the country continues to be at the receiving end of crippling droughts blamed on changing weather patterns as a result of global warming.
This brings to the fore the need for Government to seriously consider investment in the construction of big dams and large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure food security.
Completion of Tokwe-Mukosi dam in the arid Masvingo South region becomes even more urgent because the entire Masvingo Province is a perennially dry region where meaningful agricultural production can only be achieved through irrigation.
The Government of Zimbabwe has been solely responsible for financing Tokwe-Mukosi — which will become the country’s largest inland water body after Lake Mutirikwi.
With a capacity of 1,8 billion cubic metres of water when full, Tokwe-Mukosi dam has the potential to irrigate all-year-round in excess of 25 000 hectares in the rich and fertile plains of southern Masvingo, Mwenezi and Chiredzi.
This will no doubt propel Masvingo to be one of the major agricultural hubs in the country, while there is also scope to set up food processing industries along the greenbelt that will be created because of the dam.
Currently, Tokwe-Mukosi is about 90 percent complete with major outstanding works being the completion of the right bank spillway tunnel, fortification of the upstream side of the dam wall and electrification of outlet valves.
All the outstanding works require approximately US$30 million to complete after construction started about 17 years ago.
Minister Chinamasa should set aside funding in his coming budget to finish the dam that has the potential to earn Zimbabwe billions of dollars through agriculture and tourism, among other benefits.
The dam will also have the capacity to generate about 15 megawatts of electricity that is enough to light up the whole of Masvingo Province.
Sugar production in the Lowveld is expected to jump by over 15 percent if Tokwe-Mukosi comes on stream, creating space for Zimbabwe to earn foreign currency through increased exports of high quality sugar on the international market.
Thousands of workers that will be employed in companies and processing industries expected to be opened in southern Masvingo because of the dam will increase Government’s tax base.
Once Tokwe-Mukosi dam comes on stream, there are also plans to build a $400 million ethanol plant at Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi where hundreds of indigenous out-growers will be hired to grow cane under irrigation to supply the plant.
The proposed plant will further consolidate Zimbabwe’s position as a major producer of bio-fuel, while reducing Zimbabwe’s fuel import bill.
Work at Tokwe-Mukosi stopped on December 18 last year after the Italian contractor, Salini Impregilio suspended the contract citing payment problems.
The contract has been at a standstill since then with the company having withdrawn most of its construction equipment to other projects while leaving a skeletal staff at the dam site.
Efforts by Government to source loans from private players like Tongaat Hulett to complete the dam and repay using irrigation water fell through this year, because of disagreements over the pricing regime.
The current situation leaves Minister Chinamasa as the only person who can breath life into the stuttering Tokwe-Mukosi project by allocating the $30 million in the 2015/16 budget that is required to complete the project.
The ball is squarely in Minister Chinamasa’s court considering the socio-economic impact that the much-awaited Tokwe-Mukosi dam will have on Masvingo and the nation at large.