Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
AS the new year begins today, the Midlands Province looks back with fulfillment over the remarkable progress achieved in 2021 on the agriculture front and other economic sectors.
Despite the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the province was able to attract key investments and commission some of the completed projects.
Among the major highlights was the approval of the scheduled commissioning of the US$1 billion Mvuma steel plant this year, which will be Africa’s biggest steel plant.
The project, which is run by China’s Tsingshan Holding Group has commenced with the development of an iron ore mine and a carbon steel plant in Mvuma. The investment is expected to create 6 000 jobs.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has also granted Mvuma a town status, making the gold mining center the fourth town in the Midlands Province.
Other towns in the province are Gokwe, Zvishavane and Shurugwi.
Year 2021 also saw President Mnangagwa commissioning the US$1,6 million Kudzanayi Long Distance Bus Terminus, which has become the envy of many cities after the Second Republic facilitated a partnership deal between Gweru City Council and a private entity, Bentach Resources.
The new look facility has unique modern facilities such as automated gates and shopping malls, while its showers and toilets have been upgraded.
During the year, the Government also commissioned several devolution projects, including the state-of-the-art Gweru Provincial Hospital Covid-19 isolation centre, which has over 10 fully equipped Intensive Care Units.
Several roads in the provinces’ eight administrative districts that were impassable were also upgraded through the use of emergency road rehabilitation funds, while most dams are being rehabilitated as Government intensifies revival of irrigation schemes.
In the farming sector, the province managed to surpass its projected target of 40 000 tonnes of maize following the overwhelming response to the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.
Wheat farmers in the Midlands Province had to contend with the menacing quelea birds’ that ravaged most parts of Sherwood in Kwekwe district. The Government, however, came on board to contain the situation before it got out of hand.
Midlands Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Larry Mavima, however, said more could have been done and made reference to the rehabilitation and dualisation of Boterekwa Road in Shurugwi, which still hangs in the balance amid indications that a company that won the tender, Transithomes Contractors, does not have any machinery to work on the million-dollar project.
Instead, the company is allegedly extracting gold ore in the name of clearing the land to commence works. The programme was allocated US$4,2 million by Government under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme.
When the Chronicle visited the place last week, there was a tipper truck that was being loaded with gold ore and no other earth moving equipment, which is suitable for roads development on site.
The scope of work is to rehabilitate 7km of the road starting from Shurugwi town right up to where Boterekwa ends. Additionally, the contractor is supposed to dualise the last 600 metres to cover an area well known as “butcher”, which is a black spot.
Every month a life is lost at the spot as trucks especially lose control while descending the escapement resulting in fatal accidents. The tender was awarded but nothing meaningful has been done on the ground.
As such, the Midlands Province ambitious plan to double its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is currently estimated at US$1,948 billion at 2018 levels is under threat as dualisation of the road is yet to start.
Minister Mavima said the province has been allocated $942 million as part of the Presidential Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme under which the dualisation of Boterekwa has been made a top priority.
“A total of US $4,2 million has been allocated to ensure that Boterekwa, also known as the ‘Wolf Pass’ is finalised before year end but it’s clear that the target will not be met since there is nothing taking place at the site,” he said.
“The company, which won the tender hasn’t been up to stretch, they don’t have equipment. Trucks have been seen there collecting gold ore it seems, and I’m not happy at all,” said Minister Mavima.
He called on the anti-corruption agencies like Zacc to probe how a company, which allegedly doesn’t have equipment ended up getting the multi-million-dollar tender.
“I believe there is a scandal there. I don’t know who these guys know, which made them get the tender ahead of potential companies,” said Mavima.
“I have heard that they have hired equipment from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, which is suspicious.
“If the ministry has the equipment why then was this job given to these guys? The ministry should have done it themselves.
So, I smell a rat and anti-corruption agencies must quickly move in so that we are not affected by this development,” said Minister Mavima.
The minister also said the concerned contractor had submitted layout plans, which were reportedly not approved.
“They failed to provide approved layout plans you know. So, we wonder what they want to use. Something is not right. We are calling on authorities to look into this as a matter of urgency so that whatever is wrong can be corrected because we want this road rehabilitated as soon as possible,” said Minister Mavima.
The road, he said, is a vital link for cargo trucks and motorists from South Africa going as far as Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond.
“It has also become a major traffic link with Sadc,” said Minister Mavima.
He said many mining companies such as Mimosa and Unki were now dependent on the road for the movement of their cargo.
“Apart from the breathtaking scenic beauty of the pass, the road has been increasingly critical for the transit of cargo in the country,” said Mavima.
“The pass, which has been threatened by heavy traffic and activities of miners will now get a new lifeline following the committing of funds for its dualisation by the Government.”
Minister Mavima said the Midlands Province has embarked on four phases of road rehabilitation.
“The first phase of patching of highways and the second phase, which involves gravelling and re-gravelling local roads is now complete. Roads have been cited as major enablers of economic activity and national growth, while also facilitating trafficability for various economic activities,” he said.
“At a time when the nation has just achieved a bumper harvest this year, roads are vital for transportation of grain to markets and movement of inputs for the coming agricultural season.
“Every month, we have a life lost mainly of truck drivers and passengers here and there and that is why we are eager to have this programme completed as a matter of urgency.”
Efforts to get comment from the company were fruitless as the project managers number was not going through.
Last year, President Mnangagwa declared roads a state of national disaster and directed national and local authorities to go on a massive road rehabilitation exercise.
The Midlands Province has the biggest shoe manufacturing company in Zimbabwe, Bata, which is located in the provincial capital Gweru, Dendairy, the biggest dairy company in the country, is in Kwekwe, the second largest town in the Midlands, two of the three biggest Platinum Group Metals Mines; Mimosa and Unki are found in the province.
On a sad note, the province lost liberation icon and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Lieutenant General Retired Dr Sibusiso Moyo who succumbed to Covid-19 during the beginning of the 2021.
Dr SB Moyo, who was instrumental in the birth of the Second Republic, was declared a national hero and buried at the national shrine.
On crime issues, the province lost several citizens due to murder and armed robbery cases, the major highlight being a Kwekwe man who went berserk and allegedly killed seven neighbours using a spear. The case is still before the courts.
With research by some scientists in South Africa indicating that the Covid-19 Omicron variant boosts immunity to the deadly Delta variant, the Midlands can only hope for better fortunes in 2022.
Article Source: The Chronicle