Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT continues to drive the development of Matabeleland with the Mid-Term Budget Review Statement presented yesterday in Parliament by Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube prioritising financing of on-going infrastructure projects in the region.
In his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy statement, Prof Ncube said capital spending, as at 30 June 2021, has gobbled $67,4 billion, against a target of $58 billion across the country.
Major projects receiving Treasury focus in Matabeleland include the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a major component of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project; the US$1,5 billion Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 expansion, which is almost 70 percent complete; and the Lupane Provincial Hospital construction.
The Binga Airstrip rehabilitation and repair of damaged road infrastructure linking Bulawayo and surrounding regional districts including major city roads, among other projects, have been receiving Treasury funding priority.
“Completion of the Gwayi Shangani dam remains top priority during 2021. Notwithstanding the slowdown in commencement of works during the first quarter due to Covid-19 containment measures, resources were disbursed towards ongoing works with focus on projects at advanced stages of completion,” said Prof Ncube.
“Government also strengthened the targeted approach by ring fencing resources towards defined set of interventions on respective projects.
“Furthermore, Treasury in collaboration with implementing agencies have been conducting periodic site visits to selected projects in order to address project implementation challenges as well as inform resource disbursements.”
Already, construction works are on-going at the Gwayi-Shangani Dam in Hwange district with contractors optimistic that they will meet the December 2021 deadline. Upon completion, the dam is expected to provide a permanent water solution for Bulawayo and Matabeleland region. This year Government allocated $4,5 billion towards the project.
On Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project, Prof Ncube said the strategic focus was to ensure completion of Units 7 and 8 extension works on time, possibly by end of next year, which will add a combined 600MW to the national grid.
“Against the loan facility of US$998 million from China Eximbank, cumulative disbursement stands at US$378 million . . . The construction of the 400 Kilovolts transmission line is also underway,” he said.
“Due to the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic, the commissioning of the first and second units is now re-scheduled to the first and second half of 2022, respectively.”
Prof Ncube noted that Government’s strategic thrust in the water and sanitation sector was to close the water supply gap and facilitate investments that enable provision of basic sanitation services.
“The sector witnessed the completion and commissioning of Muchekeranwa Dam, Nyamandlovu Aquifer Water Project as well as the launching of the Gwayi-Shangani-Bulawayo pipeline.
“Support towards the sector during the first half of the year amounted to $2,8 billion, mainly channelled towards dam construction works, water points as well as drilling of boreholes,” he said.
Prof Ncube said development partners’ support towards water and sanitation during the period under review amounted to US$5,6 million with US$3,6 million having been disbursed by the African Development Bank.
The resources were disbursed under the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project, which targets upgrading of water and sewer infrastructure in Nkulumane, Nketa, Pumula South and Magwegwe high density suburbs.
On construction of Lupane Provincial Hospital, he said: “The construction of Lupane Provincial Hospital is now on course following the payment of $46 million owed to the contractor.”
The first phase of works cover construction of outpatient department, pharmacy and administration buildings, staff accommodation and casualty unit while central stores are expected to be completed during 2021.
Furthermore, resources amounting to $228,8 million were channelled towards completion of construction and rehabilitation of Covid-19 isolation centres countrywide including St Luke’s Isolation Centre in Lupane.
Government, in partnership with a United Kingdom-based company, NMS Infrastructure is constructing three fully equipped 120-bed district hospitals and thirty 22-bedded health centres under a US$210 million loan facility.
“Works on two identified sites in Harare and Bulawayo have commenced whilst preparatory works at Mberengwa and Chimanimani are now at advanced levels with work at all the four sites expected to be completed before year-end. The whole project is now scheduled for completion by December 2022,” said Prof Ncube.
“At Mpilo Central Hospital, rehabilitation and upgrading works on three burnt doctors’ flat’s, wards, theatres and other support facilities such as incinerators, laundry and off-site facilities is ongoing.”
He said the two Lupane Composite Office Blocks are expected to be completed by August 2021 following disbursement of $115,3 million towards finishing related balustrading, air conditioning, finishes and electrical works among others.
In pursuant with the devolution agenda, resources amounting to $2,2 billion have been availed to provincial and local authorities for implementation of various projects consistent with the thrust of promoting inclusive and balanced socio-economic development in the country.
The above amount includes $500 million disbursed for local authority road projects across the country including those in Matabeleland region under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme. — @okazunga.