Bulawayo residents have called on the government to hand control of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) to them.
The MZWP was first mooted in 1912 as a long-term solution to Bulawayo’s water crisis but has failed to be implemented in full, as successive governments before and after independence continued shifting goalposts.
In December 2012, under the Government of National Unity(GNU), the MZWP was renamed the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project and headed by the then minister of Water and Infrastructural Development Samuel Sipepa Nkomo who announced that the government would take over the project as it had secured $864 million from China Exim Bank to complete the project
The then Finance minister, Tendai Biti presided over the signing of a contract between the government of Zimbabwe and the Chinese Export and Import Bank but later it was reported that the Chinese who had pledged to fund the project had abandoned it, saying Zimbabwe was a high investment risk.
Speaking during a water crisis meeting held by Habakkuk Trust at the Small City Hall, Tuesday, Fanwell Sibanda an MZWP board member said the people in the region are willing to take over control and speed up the process.
“At this moment there’s an effort by the people of Matabeleland to engage the government to say can you please let the project come back to Matabeleland so that these delays can be a thing of the past, the reason, in short, it is because the control of the project has moved from its originators to the administrators who are not directly affected by the problem,” said Sibanda.
“If it had been moved from the people to their representatives sitting here who have been sent to do a specific job that is service delivery to these people, we would be well assured it will be done effectively.”
Residents have however reiterated that since the government cannot afford to finance the project independently, they are willing to look for investors to help finance the MZWP so that the project may be concluded earlier than expected.
“The state by itself cannot carry the project it is therefore affordable only when we bring in international capital, it is affordable when we bring in the community brain to input into this idea,” said Sibanda.
He added that the problem with the project is that the people in charge do not live in the region and where they are there is water.
“We have however run into a problem were the powers sitting in the big offices were I once sat there in Harare, planning the project for us, they have water to wash, they have water to flush and everything is taken care of, if they are failing to get water from Manyame and Darwindale its for different reasons from what we are facing here,” said Sibanda.
MZWP board member further reiterated that action is taken by people to implement solutions to the problems they face.
“We now need to move to step in and do what Mr Nkomo was saying and that is action, what is the action suggestions have come up from the people, things that can be implemented to alleviate the problem that is harvesting water, recycling of used water, closing streams here and there all these ideas need to be well articulated,” said Sibanda.
In April, it was reported that the government had relinquished control of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) and handed it over to the Matabeleland Collective and its technical partner the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT).
This came after the Matabeleland Collective met President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the Bulawayo State House in March.