MPs demand progress on Gwayi-Shangani project
LAWMAKERS have taken Treasury to task over delays in updating Parliament on the progress of the Gwayi-Shangani water project after it emerged that there has been little construction activity despite the government painting a rosy picture.
The project, whose primary purpose is to supply water to the city of Bulawayo, as well as communities in Hwange and Binga districts, has been dogged by several drawbacks, including poor cashflow and non-payment of contractors.
The project is yet to reach the second and third phases which are envisaged to see the construction of a 251-kilometre pipeline to convey water from Lake Gwayi-Shangani Dam to Bulawayo, while the third and final stage will see the construction of a 122km pipeline from the Zambezi River to link the Gwayi-Shangani pipeline.
“On the issue of the supply of water, we have to be a bit serious, because when we visited Cowdray Park, we only saw a kilometre where there were pipes. We even went on to ask whether they had been paid for and if there was a contractor who was going to supply the pipes, but there seemed to be nothing happening,” said Kuwadzana MP Willias Madzimure while commenting on a report by the parliamentary committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development on visits to flagship infrastructure projects.
“However, we were all of the impression that there was serious progress that was going on to have water in Bulawayo soon. Something must be done. The ministry of Finance must also be sincere. On the Gwayi-Shangani, the dam itself, the contractors are doing perfectly well, but because they are not being paid, that thing should have been running as we are speaking right now.
“The ministry of Finance has to respond to this report and tell this House exactly what is happening,” said Madzimure.
According to the report presented in the National Assembly last week, contracted companies on the project have witnessed serious losses in the value of certified works due to changes in cost, spurred by contract pricing in Zimbabwe dollars (ZW$).
“Contract pricing in ZW has had a knock-on effect on the project, as Zimbabwe dollar prices were being eroded by inflation. However, in order to provide fair compensation and to lock in the value of completed work, it was suggested that all interim payment certificates (IPC) be processed in US dollars, with amounts converted to local currency on the day of payment at agreed terms with the contractor and government.
“Furthermore, the committee was informed that fund disbursements from the ministry of Finance and Economic Development were lagging and that the project had not received any cement consignment from June 6 to June 30, 2022.”
Smooth completion of the project has been further cast into doubt following the garnishing of accounts of the main contractor, China Water and Electrical Corporation, for the fourth time in the same year over tax compliance issues.
The government has been struggling to pay contractors in time, which has hampered progress.
“The contractors also stated that if a permanent solution was not found, garnishing of accounts that had not been resolved since the beginning of the year would continue to impede progress on site.
“Furthermore, contract workers from the contractor’s camp were forced to stop working on June 15, 2022, due to unpaid wages. The workers resumed on June 23 when they began receiving salaries, and this has slowed progress on site and prevented the set target of four metres of construction per month from being met,” read the report.
The government took over the project from the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project in 2012, who had contracted China Water and Electrical Corporation. After the takeover, the company resumed work in 2017. However, there were some delays in 2019 and 2020 due to insufficient cash flow, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the parliamentary committee report, the current contract was signed in 2012 for US$121 732 922.60. A further ZW$3.6 billion was allocated to the project under the 2022 National Budget.
With the relocation of displaced local villagers imminent, human rights defenders have been calling for fair compensation to the affected families.
Last year, the Matebeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) called for an increase in the proposed US$2 million relocation fund, saying it is insufficient to provide modern amenities for over 734 families who are facing displacement to pave way for the dam project.
“If shared equally . . . it is US$2 725 per household assuming everyone gets a fair share of the package,” said Khumbulani Maphosa, the MIHR coordinator.