The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
“NKOMO made Freeman” was the bold headline in the Chronicle edition of Friday 28 February 1992, with the accompanying sub-heading; “Vice President tasked to make the Zambezi project a success.”
This was a day after the late Father Zimbabwe was conferred with the City of Bulawayo’s highest accolade — The Freedom of the city.
Since 1980 the city has conferred six Freedom of the City accolades and 54 civic honours. Others that have got the Freedom of the City awards are the late President Mugabe (23 July 1986), Bulawayo District Zimbabwe National Army (3 March 1989), One Brigade Zimbabwe National Army (3 March 1989), former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki (5 May 2000), and the late Vice-President Joseph Msika (25 August 2006).
The Freedom of the City Award, is the highest honour a local authority can bestow on persons in terms of paragraph 52 of the Urban Councils Act, Chapter 29:15 while civic honours are awarded for community work and not for activities carried out during the course of a person’s normal duties for which he or she was paid and due recognition given in terms of that person’s contract.
Conferring the Freedom of the City of Bulawayo on him, the then Mayor, Alderman Nelson Sidanile, appealed to Dr Nkomo to use his influence to ensure that Bulawayo got water from the Zambezi River and bring a final solution to the city’s perennial water shortages.
While reacting to the challenge of ensuring the much-anticipated Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project comes to fruition, Dr Nkomo cautioned people against “jumping the gun” on the issue of drawing water from the Zambezi.
He said the Zambezi water was subject to an agreement of five countries in the region and the continued discussion of the issue was likely to endanger the country’s chances of drawing water from that river. Dr Nkomo however, assured the people of Bulawayo that he would do everything in his power to ensure that he gives the city a lasting solution to its water woes. Coincidentally the editorial comment in the same paper emphasised on the perennial water challenges bedevilling the city.
“Yesterday’s ceremony came, unfortunately, at a time when Bulawayo is in its death throes due to a devastating drought which has reduced the city’s water reserves to a few months’ supply.”
This began a lifelong battle of trying to ensure that he fulfils the promise he made on that very day. Three decades on, Dr Nkomo should surely be watching from his grave with a beaming smile. The Second Republic under the captaincy of President Mnangagwa has made sure to deliver on the promise. It is dawning that the country’s second largest city is finally getting a lasting solution to its perennial water challenges through the completion of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani and pipeline project which was a huge component of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project.
President Mnangagwa has assured the nation that the project will be complete by end of this year with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development a couple of weeks ago revealing that the project is now at 66,2 percent completion.
“Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam is now at 66,2 percent completion. The contractor is now working on the dam wall. The process of gazetting the Gwayi-Shangani Dam as a lake is in progress. Excavations for the permanent access road commenced on 14 March 2022. The road will provide access to the mini-hydropower house.
“The nation is also informed that contracts for civil works for the pipeline were signed on 7 April 2022, and sites were handed over to eleven contractors. All the contractors are now on site, and 68 km of the 252 km of the pipeline route have been cleared, while 6 km have been excavated. The 220 megalitres per day treatment plant at Cowdray Park is at the tendering stage, with bids having closed on 10 June 2022,” said then acting Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere at a post- Cabinet briefing.
Dr Muswere further revealed that once complete about 800 megalitres of the treated water would be pumped directly to the 108ML Magwegwe Clear Water Reservoir for onward distribution to the City of Bulawayo.
Writing in one of his weekly articles to the nation which are published in this paper, President Mnangagwa also reiterated that the project was progressing well and everything was in place to ensure the completion of the project before 2023.
“With the Gwayi-Shangani Piped Water Project whose construction has now started in earnest, Bulawayo’s water woes should be resolved conclusively before 2023. Along the way, that pipeline will be depositing water, to turn Matabeleland into a sustainable green belt,” said the President.
Speaking at a crunch inter-ministerial indaba which was held in Hwange to deliberate on the progress and challenges affecting the project, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka noted that on completion, the project will have a far-reaching impact.
“The Lake Gwayi-Shangani project will be felt beyond Matabeleland North and beyond Bulawayo as dams in Matabeleland South supplying Bulawayo with water will be released for other projects. The impact will be felt everywhere in Zimbabwe as we journey towards 2030 into a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income economy,” said President Mnangagwa.
Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Richard Moyo expressed gratitude to the efforts that were being put in place by President Mnangagwa in ensuring that the project was finally completed.
“We want to express gratitude to President Mnangagwa and the Second Republic because he is the one who made all the efforts to ensure this project is completed. The pipes have started arriving, we are confident that Bulawayo will soon start receiving water from Gwayi-Shangani. In Matabeleland, we will also benefit through irrigation projects,” said Minister Moyo.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Cde Judith Ncube concurred with Minister Moyo noting that once complete the Gwayi-Shangani project will effectively solve the perennial water crisis faced in the country’s second largest city.
Speaking at a full council meeting recently, Zanu-PF Cowdray Park Councillor, Kidwell Mujuru also commended the efforts of President Mnangagwa noting that finally the city will get a permanent solution to its water problems.
“The Second Republic is dedicated towards infrastructural development; it is hands-on and sensitive to the needs and aspirations of all the people in Zimbabwe. I am delighted that Gwayi-Shangani Dam is nearing completion and its commissioning is earmarked towards the end of this year (2022).
“When complete, Gwayi-Shangani Dam will provide Bulawayo with about 450 mega litres of water per day and stimulate agricultural activities throughout the Matabeleland region. As you are aware, BCC has re-introduced a 24-hour water rationing programme. However, thanks to the sterling work of the Second Republic, this will be a thing of the past,” said Clr Mujuru.
According to the scope of work the Gwayi-Shangani dam pipeline will consist of two pipelines with a diameter of 1,2 metres with a capacity to convey up to 450 megalitres of water per day to Bulawayo. It will have six booster pump stations at Gwayi-Shangani dam, Goodluck, Ngamo, Umguza, Igusi and Nyamandlovu and will be discharging into a water treatment plant situated at Cowdray Park. The pipeline will have off-takes for irrigation and other uses along the way.
Therefore, as we remember the passing on of Dr Nkomo it is imperative to note that the Second Republic is helping fulfil his promises to the people of Bulawayo and the region, and by next year the city will finally have a permanent solution to its perennial water challenges.
Father Zimbabwe, as most Zimbabweans call him, was born in Kezi District on 17 June 1918 and was the country’s Vice-President at the time of his death on 1 July 1999. After leading Zapu and its predecessor, National Democratic Party (NDP), and playing a pivotal role in the 17-year long liberation struggle and in uniting the country since 1987, it was but a natural call for the moniker Father Zimbabwe to be given to this titanic and iconic figure in our national history and heritage.
Dr Nkomo played an immense role in liberating the country from white oppressors; he was notably one of the first individuals to take up the struggle for liberating the country as a full-time occupation, literally abandoning his family all in the name of nationalism.
He is ranked alongside some of Africa’s great leaders such as the late Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah, the late Mozambican President Samora Machel, Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) founding President, the late Patrice Lumumba, former South African President, Nelson Mandela and former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, among others.
Writing in his book, The Story of my life, Dr Nkomo sums up the issue of patriotism and pushing for the development of one’s nation when he says; “I am a Zimbabwean patriot and an African patriot too. I refuse to accept that we cannot do better than we have so far done . . . It is up to us to do better now.”