SOUTHERN NEWS | Govt, Chinese firm in $3m debt dispute

HARARE - The Chinese company which built Beitbridge’s $40 million water purification plant has reportedly refused with the manual that gives information on how to operate the machinery, until they are paid a balance of $3 million.

China International Water and Electricity has camped on site despite having completed the project two years ago.

The plant was commissioned by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko a fortnight ago.

According to a Zimbabwe National Water Authority official, the Chinese initially asked for $1,5 million soon after completion but costs and interest saw the figure shoot to $3 million.

  “They are pressing for the payment of that amount and some of the company’s technicians are still camped at Beitbridge to fully hand over when demand is met,” said the Zinwa official.

  “We may not be able to operate it to full capacity if they keep withholding that technical data.”

Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who was part of the commissioning, professed ignorance about the issue when contacted for comment.

  “I have no information on that. I will have to check with my accounts department who handle finance issues,” she said.

Efforts to get a comment from the company were fruitless but a worker at the camp near the water plant said the Chinese were waiting for outstanding payment of costs they incurred to buy additional pumps.

The plant is set to benefit dry communal areas of Matshiloni, Dumba, Lutumba, Malala Tshapfuce and Nuli.

The water plant, a definite answer to growing Beitbridge town’s perennial water problems, was built on the background of a cholera outbreak that wiped away between 4 000 and 5 000 people countrywide in 2008 and 2009.

  Although government insists it funded the whole project initially tendered at $11 million, a $2 million grant was allocated for the project by the World Bank in reaction to the cholera outbreak.

During the commissioning, Mphoko said the water plant with a capacity of processing 4 000 cubic metres per hour is the first step towards supplying water to South Africa’s dry Limpopo Province.

  “The governments of the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe are currently in negotiations under a bi-national commission for the supply of any excess water in Zimbabwe to South Africa’s northern provinces.

“This water treatment plant could be one of the quick wins for this bilateral cooperation,” Mphoko said.

  He also said the plant was important for a busy port like Beitbridge — home to 60 000 people and a daily transit population of almost 20 000 at peak.

The water plant is also expected to play a pivotal role in an envisaged rural piped water scheme expected to take water within a 40 kilometre radius of the border town.



Byo council, Umguza in housing deal

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has partnered Umguza Rural District Council as part of an initiative to reduce illegal peri-urban development that has been fast developing due to rising demand for housing.

On Monday, the two local authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development of the Upper and Lower Rangemore area, which is in Umguza.

The MoU ended years of protracted negotiations between the two, as Bulawayo was encroaching into Umguza for residential land.

Mayor Martin Moyo indicated that the high demand for urban housing resulted in the new unplanned settlements outside the city’s boundaries.

“The need for urban housing has spread beyond the current boundaries of the city,” Moyo said.

“Embundane and Emthunzini have sprung up as major urban developments without the complementary services of water, sewer, refuse collection and roads. This is a ticking time bomb for both local authorities, which needed to be addressed urgently,” he said.

Moyo said as policy makers, they saw it fit to jointly address such problems in an effort to gain from the partnership with regards to dealing with urban housing challenges.

“The formulation of the MoU has come about through the persistent illegal and legal peri-urban developments that have ballooned in the Rangemore area. This is evidently fuelled by demand for urban housing in an area which does not have the services to support such developments,” he said.

The mayor added: “Residents have been consulted and what has come out is that there is a demand for housing in the Rangemore area and Bulawayo in general. The unlocking of Rangemore will go a long way in reducing the housing backlog which has persisted for decades in our city.”

“Whereas the BCC is the local authority in its area of jurisdiction, this MoU seeks to establish a mutual partnership which seeks to work

together for the harmonious development in planning, servicing and development of upper and lower Rangemore,” reads the MoU’s preamble.

As part of the of the MoU’s operating principles, Umguza council is the administrative authority of Rangemore area.



Abandoned mine pits haunt Mapanzure

THE Mapanzure community is living in danger from deep mining pits abandoned by mining firms and individuals decades ago, with the area’s traditional leader expressing worry over the situation.

Worried Chief Mapanzure last week told the Southern News that he was not giving up in his bid to ensure that dangerous pits — which have claimed the lives of people and livestock in the community — are filled.

Chrome open pits have for years been abandoned by miners — including the established Zimasco and Zimalloys — in the mineral rich Mapanzure area.

But in most cases, artisanal small-scale miners are blamed.

Despite having fought a long lone battle to nudge government and the companies concerned to address the environmental hazard, it appears it’s still a long way to go for Chief Mapanzure, who, however, insists failure is not an option.

“This case has been going on for years, with Zimasco and ZimAlloys solely responsible for these pits,” he told the Southern News.

“We have lost a fortune due to these huge pits; we have lost children and quite a number of livestock over the years. Some of these pits are now dams and very dangerous,” the traditional leader said.

What seems to irk him is the alleged slow response by government.

“Government has been heel dragging in terms of addressing the issue. At one point, the Mines and Energy Parliamentary portfolio committee was here and they witnessed how dangerous this place has become.

“They took pictures and videos and promised to take action. They really appeared to be concerned, but nothing has happened on the ground as yet,” Chief Mapanzure said.

He added: “At one point, I had to take up the matter on my own after realising that we continued to lose precious life here. My community and I engaged the Zimasco management to take responsibility for their mess.

“However, under pressure from the community, Zimasco agreed but they only managed to come and fill two, if not three, pits before they disappeared. It’s been two years now, they never came back. Now we are back to the same problem.”

The chief said he was also concerned about the new arrangement under which government authorised the ceding of claims to small-scale miners by Zimasco, a development he said was going to worsen the community’s plight.

“Personally, I feel the government should have first ensured that Zimasco has filled all the pits before parcelling out the claims to new people because they may not have the capacity to do that, which to me is a major setback.”

Chief Mapanzure said he has continued to engage the Mines ministry, local leadership as well as the Environmental Management Agency in trying to find a lasting solution in the matter.


Strip roads under spotlight

FOR decades, people in Matabeleland have always felt that their region was being deliberately marginalised in economic development by the ruling Zanu PF party.

While marginalisation has been pronounced in various sectors, one such area has been transport infrastructure.

The roads that lead to the rural areas or major districts surrounding the region’s capital, Bulawayo, are in a bad state.

Those who have been to Tsholotsho, Nkayi and Kezi in particular will testify how stressing it is to use the poor roads which are not only a mere strip but are littered with potholes, patches and narrow bridges.

“So bad are the roads that vehicles cannot drive in opposite directions.

Some of the roads have been under construction for decades and are now used as campaign tools by ruling party politicians, every time an election nears.

However, as has become the norm the heavy machinery which will be deployed to the “construction sites” roll back to their bases without much work done.

Analyst Gifford Sibanda said the underdevelopment of roads and other crucial infrastructure was deliberate.

“Since independence Zanu PF has used State power to selectively develop areas where they think they are popular and starve those that they believe are not voting for them. It has been their strategy to starve opponents to submission,” Sibanda said.

“We have had many leaders from Matabeleland but they have failed to bring development of such nature because they represent Zanu PF instead of the people.

“When these politicians are appointed, they go to Harare so grateful to (President Robert) Mugabe for bringing food on their table and at the end of day they do nothing for this region.

“The other issue is that the unity between PF Zapu and Zanu PF, instead of factoring in development, was meant to address a political question and that’s why we find ourselves in this situation,” he said.

He also said politicians from this part of the world were also afraid of being labelled tribalists or regionalists hence they do not fully represent the region on the development side.

Academic Samukele Hadebe said the local and national leadership was to blame for the lack of roads development.

He also challenged political leaders to plan for such developments like roads.

He, however, hinted on the lack of prioritising of the roads in Matabeleland which he indicated were in a bad state.

“While acknowledging development in other things like hospitals, schools etc, we are saying we should be seeing that little development on the roads as we see in other regions because 37 years after independence and using such roads which we don’t even know which year they were set up by Rhodesians, is an insult,” Hadebe said.

Activist Mbuso Fuzwayo of Ibhetshu LikaZulu blamed the ruling party for deliberately sidelining the region in developmental programmes.

“We know for a fact that, it’s part of the Zanu PF agenda to marginalise Matabeleland, so it’s not surprising that those roads have remained in the state that our colonisers left them,” Fuzwayo said.

“Imagine how painful it is to use those roads because of their state but the Members of Parliament and ministers who stay here and who use these roads have not done anything to have them expanded.

“This is because these leaders don’t represent us but the interests of their party which is Zanu PF,” he said.

Fuzwayo said what made matters worse was that the central government determines government priorities and not much attention has been given to Matabeleland as compared to other areas.

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