Nqobile Tshili Bulawayo Bureau
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday laid foundation stones for the construction of three transformative buildings at Gwanda State University (GSU) as the institution positions itself to champion development through research and innovation in agriculture and mining.
The foundation stones were for the construction of the Engineering Laboratory and Innovation Complex, Lecture Block, Agro-Innovation Complex and the Agro-Industrial Park at GSU Epoch Mine Campus in Insiza district, Matabeleland South.
The three buildings are key in ensuring that GSU plays a strategic role in animal and veterinary sciences, irrigation engineering and management, mining engineering, environmental engineering and environmental management and ecosystem restoration.
The university, which operates from Epoch Mine Campus in Insiza District, is expected to lead innovations in mining and agriculture, the mainstays of communities in Matabeleland South.
Matabeleland South is a gold-rich province and farmers have a bias towards animal husbandry.
President Mnangagwa, who was installed as the university’s first Chancellor, said the construction of the new buildings should align with the university’s transformational agenda.
“It is my sincere hope that the following stones that I have laid today have placed GSU on a firm development trajectory which will see the institution transform into an innovative and self-sustaining entity,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said it was heartening to note that the university’s performance is already in line with its mandate, adding that the establishment of GSU is timely considering the envisaged US$12 billion mining economy.
“Highlighting this phenomenal growth was the commissioning of the Blanket Mine Central Shaft Expansion Project, which I officiated yesterday here in Matabeleland South Province. In light of this, it is necessary that institutions such as GSU take up the mantle and speed up research initiatives as well as develop innovative capacity which will lead to lifting many Zimbabweans out of poverty and into prosperity, through sectors such as mining.
“It is, therefore, heartening to note that GSU has hit the ground running and is showing potential to be a reliable partner in transforming and modernising our economy. With support from our institutions of higher learning, the attainment of Vision 2030 is increasingly becoming a reality, much to the vexation of our country’s detractors.”
The President said the construction of the Engineering and Innovation Complex will put to an end the present undesirable situation where students are being bussed to other institutions for practical lessons and experiments.
“The complex will also be accessible for the use by both small and large-scale miners in Matabeleland South province and beyond who may need certain technical and professional services such as sample testing,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Let me once again assure GSU that my Government will continue to avail the requisite resources for the construction and sustenance of the institution.”
The President challenged the private sector and mining companies to complement the Government in the development of the university.
He said the Engineering Laboratory and Innovation Complex will house seven laboratories – the Ore Receiving, Assaying, Environmental, Characterisation, Physical Metallurgical, Rock Mechanics, Engineering Workshop and Production and Geomatics and Surveying Storage laboratory.
President Mnangagwa said the environmental lab will be used for undertaking tests for contaminants that affect human life while the Wet Lab will enable the carrying out of a wide range of qualitative and quantitative tests of chemical ores.
The President said locals should take advantage of research institutions to enhance productivity in their sectors.
“The situation whereby artisanal miners encroach into institutions is unacceptable and should stop forthwith. Instead, artisanal miners are encouraged to seek collaborations with institutions of higher learning to develop technologies, innovations and solutions to enhance their productivity and profitability as well as solutions for environmental restorations.”
President Mnangagwa said the construction of the Lecture Block and Agro Innovation Complex will support health science teaching and learning for research and innovation.
“These facilities should result in the resuscitation of not only the livestock sector in Matabeleland South but the country as a whole. Through insightful innovation and supporting the dynamic improvement of veterinary education, we should begin to witness increased production of goods and services at the Agro-Industrial Park.
“It is my expectation that cutting-edge technologies and solutions will be developed here by our innovative young boys and girls, in light of the ever-evolving nature of animal diseases and health challenges.”
President Mnangagwa said the Government will support engineering students by availing modern laboratories and equipment for their development.
He said agro-industrial parks across the country’s state universities should advance the development of wearable devices, telemedicine, artificial intelligence, biomarkers and genetic testing.
President Mnangagwa said the construction of infrastructure projects at GSU should contribute to nurturing start-ups, development of innovations and registration of patents and accelerate industrialisation.
At a time when most universities are struggling to accommodate the increasing student population, President Mnangagwa said it was pleasing that GSU provides housing for all students and staff.
Speaking at the same occasion, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said the laying of foundation stones for the construction of three buildings at the university proves the Government’s commitment to the development of relevant human capital.
He said in line with the “Nyika Inovakwa Nevene vayo/Ilizwe lakhiwa ngabaninibalo” philosophy, the Government is financing all the construction projects at universities.
“Even in a constrained environment, you are financially supporting higher and tertiary education as a strategic sector for the development of our country. Your Excellency, we thank you therefore for laying a strong physical and digital infrastructure which underpins innovation and industrialisation of our nation,” Prof Murwira said.
“Today you have laid a foundation stone for the Engineering and Innovation Complex which we believe will house the most complex capabilities in the minerals and subsoils of this country. We expect the Agro-Innovation laboratory to have the capabilities that we must have in agriculture, especially in dry lands. Your Excellency on everything that we do, it’s the Government of Zimbabwe that is funding it, you are funding it and we thank you for that.”
Prof Murwira said the Government has strengthened the legal framework for the development of the higher and tertiary education sector.
“In the past four years, we have reviewed 14 pieces of legislation in higher education and did a 15th one which is the centre for innovation, research and development which underpins the legal infrastructure that gives us the leverage to do things that we do today.”
Prof Murwira said the country is on course to meet the goals of Vision 2030 through knowledge, innovation and skills development.