Gwayi-Shangani Dam: Debunking colonial legacy of barrenness Yesterday, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo led a team of senior Government officials in the province to assess progress on the construction of the big dam. 

Elliot Ziwira

Senior Writer

Collective memory is alive to the colonial legacy of displacement of the indigenous people from their fertile ancestral soils to arid and barren areas, like Gwayi and Shangani, derogatorily called Reserves and Tribal Trust Lands.

The Land Apportionment Act of 1931, amended 60 times to divide land ownership between blacks and whites, allocated white settlers more than 80 percent of the land, despite being in the minority (five percent), leaving blacks with only 20 percent even though they were in the majority.

As history recalls, Gwayi and Shangani are synonymous with aridity, deprivation and colonial subjugation.

Collective memory articulates the extent to which Africans lost, and how in less than six years of settler occupation the Ndebele lost more than 21 million hectares of land, and were confined to hot, dry and tsetse-fly ridden reserves, unsuitable for human habitation.

To protect the people’s collective struggle and to uphold its values, after Independence in 1980, the Government of Zimbabwe put in place policy frameworks that would withstand the vagaries of time.

To tap into large reservoirs of underground and surface water (with over 8 000 dams) which Zimbabwe is endowed with, the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa has made the construction and accomplishment of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam a top priority. 

Therefore, the colonial legacy of barrenness is debunked through provision of water, a universal right, to communities previously considered insignificant by successive colonial governments.

Since 2019, the Second Republic has committed resources towards the construction of the dam, which has a holding capacity of 650 million cubic metres of water, with Treasury allocating $4,5 billion for the project in the 2021 National Budget, to ascertain sustainable livelihoods in the Matabeleland region, rendered perennially arid.  

At 40 percent completion to date, the dam located in the Hwange District, about six kilometres downstream of the confluence of the Gwayi and Shangani rivers (a tributary to the Zambezi River), is poised to benefit citizens in Bulawayo, Binga and Lupane districts, among others in the proximity of the proposed pipeline.

Completion of the dam will see the laying of a 245km pipeline from the water source to Bulawayo. 

The dam and the pipeline project are part of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) proposed in 1912, but remained aground under settler administration.

The construction of another pipeline linking the dam to the Zambezi River, will complete the NMZWP project.

Although the project got Government attention in 2016, or thereabouts, the coming in of the Second Republic saw it receiving momentous financial support and political will to solve the water crisis in Bulawayo and the surrounding communities once and for all.

The Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, the pipeline is projected to be completed by the end of 2022, with companies eyeing the mapping of the route already invited to place their bids through the project manager, ZINWA.

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