Mashudu Netsianda / Leonard Ncube, Chronicle Reporters
DEVOLUTION being spearheaded by President Mnangagwa continues to bear fruits in Matabeleland North as evidenced by implementation of key developmental economic projects in the province, a ratification of Government’s commitment to decentralisation anchored on empowerment of local communities.
For a largely rural province previously viewed as lagging behind in terms of development despite its vast natural resources, Matabeleland North has the potential of transforming into a formidable economic hub due to its critical sectors such as tourism, timber, gold mining and agriculture.
This weekend, major focus will be on the province when President Mnangagwa visits Hwange and Binga districts.
In Hwange District, the President is set to officiate in the groundbreaking ceremony of the 42km Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) Deka Water Pipeline upgrade as well as commission the SolGas Power Plant at Mabale on Friday.
On Saturday, he has double engagements in Binga where he will launch and handover fishing rigs to local chiefs, women and youths at Binga Centre.
The President will proceed to Siabuwa Centre to address a star rally to drum up support for Cde Kuda Munsaka, Zanu-PF aspiring candidate for the Binga North National Assembly constituency in the March 26 by-elections.
The Second Republic under President Mnangagwa is also spearheading a number of projects in Binga, which include implementation of the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme, rehabilitation of Binga Airstrip and upgrading of Binga-Siabuwa-Karoi Road, which will be tarred.
Binga is a resort sitting on untapped tourism opportunities and has sand beaches that are not being fully utilised on the Zambezi River.
With investment, the beaches can become Binga’s tourism drawcard for recreation, leisure and sport.
The district has the potential to attract thousands of tourists, but lacks necessary infrastructure for the drive, hence the Second Republic’s commitment to developing the area.
Binga also has hot springs, wildlife and some of the economic activities include fishing, boating, crocodile farming and cultural activities, among others.
Hwange District alone has seen expansion of mining investments in the last few years, with growing focus on diversification towards coal value addition and energy generation, which are set to enhance export prospects and job opportunities.
In an interview yesterday, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the President’s two-day visit to the province is an indication of his hands-on approach towards the Second Republic’s drive to bring about inclusive growth anchored on empowerment of local communities.
“As Matabeleland North, we are quite excited to be hosting our President, His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa in the province where he will officiate at the ground-breaking ceremony of the 42km Deka Water Pipeline upgrade in Hwange.
Communities along the pipeline will also benefit tremendously from this project as they will be able to irrigate their crops since our province is a semi-arid region characterised by low rainfall,” he said.
ZPC and Exim Bank of China signed a contract for upgrade of the Deka pumping station and construction of the 42km pipeline from Zambezi River to the power station, whose tender was won by an Indian consortium.
Upgrading of the Deka Pumping Station and construction of the pipeline is expected to run parallel to the expansion of Units 7 and 8 and also provide water for communities along the way.
Outlets into irrigation projects will be established along the pipeline for sustainable farming by communities.
The ZPC Water Pipeline is also envisaged to solve the perennial water supply challenges at the Hwange Power Station, which requires about 3 500 cubic metres of raw water per hour for power generation.
This may increase to 6 000 cubic metres when the two expansion projects are completed and in operation.
The US$1.5 billion expansion programme started in August 2018 following a ground-breaking ceremony by President Mnangagwa, and entails addition of Units 7 and 8, with each unit expected to generate 300MW.
The new pipeline, which will draw raw water from the Zambezi River into Hwange Power Station, will augment the existing one and also supply drinking water to the surrounding Ngagula community in Hwange.
Hwange Power Station is the country’s largest coal-fired power plant.
“On Saturday, President Mnangagwa will hand over fishing rigs to 17 chiefs in Binga, five chiefs from Kariba, five local women’s groups and five local youth groups as part of economic empowerment.
Binga’s economy hinges on fishery and therefore Vision 2030 will certainly become a reality for the local communities as they will be able to economically empower themselves through these rigs,” said Minister Moyo.
“Under the Second Republic, the President thrives to bring about inclusive growth that is anchored on empowerment of local communities in line with Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).”
Minister Moyo confirmed that President Mnangagwa, who is also Zanu-PF’s First Secretary, will address people at Siabuwa Business Centre to drum up support for Cde Munsaka.
“For the past 20 years, the opposition has been winning elections yet there has been no meaningful development.
This time we want to reclaim the constituency in the March 26 by-elections and President Mnangagwa will lead from the front in mobilising support when he addresses a rally in Siabuwa,” he said.
Minister Moyo said President Mnangagwa’s administration is walking the talk on delivering its promises to the people.
Independent power producer, SolGas Energy chief executive officer Mr Kingston Kamba said it was all systems go for commissioning of the solar power plant at Mabale following completion of the first phase, which is already feeding 5MW into the national grid.
“All is set for the commissioning of the first phase of the solar plant by His Excellency President Mnangagwa on Friday, and we are obviously working with our local stakeholders so that the local community can be able to witness what we have done for them,” he said.
“We are looking forward to a beautiful ceremony, which will be a celebration of what has been done in Hwange district, which is a reflection of brilliant teamwork.”
The solar power plant located at Cross Mabale recently underwent hot testing before successfully feeding 5MW of clean renewable energy into the national grid network.
SolGas Energy plans to expand the solar energy plant with an additional 10MW in the second phase of the project, increasing capacity to 15MW.
The third and final phase of the renewable energy project will see the plant increasing its overall capacity to 50MW.
“Once this plant is commissioned, we will start the process of fundraising for the extra 10MW and we need US$11.4 million.
We are also going to expand the 28km 33kV line by adding another 52km, which will go all the way to Hwange to ensure that we sufficiently stabilise that grid in that particular area and include more people along the line,” said Mr Kamba.
The new 28km line is also being used by local communities, including lodges and national parks, among other institutions along the line.
The project is the third independent power producer developed solar project to be connected to the national grid, and the country’s biggest to date.
“The 5MW solar power plant is enough to generate electricity for 6 500 homes and that is a huge benefit to the country.
We are also using local contractors and boosting business around the area. Because we have added 5MW to the national grid, it means the country will not import electricity to ensure enough energy supply and save the country of US$2 million a year,” said Mr Kamba.
“That money can then be diverted towards construction of roads, clinics and other projects.
In order to achieve Vision 2030 goals and NDS1, power supply is essential for industry and a key enabler of economic development.”
Mr Kamba said the second part of the project includes construction of a brand-new substation at Mabale.
“Solar energy is key and we need to add it to our energy mix so that there is no over reliance on Kariba and Hwange.
We need to see more solar plants being developed; hence it becomes a critical part of that energy mix,” he said.
“We have a long term vision of putting at least 5MW in every province and that is the message we will be delivering to our guests.” – @mashnets
Article Source: The Chronicle