BY LIZWE SEBATHA
BINGA — About 502 families in Lubimbi will be relocated to pave way for the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani dam. The dam construction is expected to be completed in December 2022.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and Chinese contractor, China International Water and Electric Corporation are involved in the construction of the giant structure.
The dam construction includes a 245-kilometre-long water pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo, a situation that will see hundreds of families being affected and relocated. But the Treasury boss never mentioned a budget to cater for the relocation and compensation for the affected villagers when announcing his 2022 budget on November 25.
Mthuli Ncube only allocated $535 million for the construction of the pipeline. Commentators say this is disturbing.
“It is disturbing that the government is not taking seriously the welfare of the people that are likely to be affected by the pipeline,” says Effie Ncube, a commentator.
“It (pipeline) is going to have a huge displacement effect on villagers downstream from the Zambezi River into Bulawayo. It is important that there are sufficient resources that are budgeted for the relocation of those villagers.”
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo insists that the villagers will be compensated and that the government will meet the cost of relocation.
But the Finance minister did not announce a budget for that.
In a passionate appeal to the government on September 12, Lubimbi villagers expressed worry over the governments’ silence of their relocation and compensation.
“The project will see the relocation of 502 families or households. Lubimbi 2 Primary School will be submerged in water, so will be the dip tank. About 60 boreholes will be destroyed; roads and the Shangani Bridge will be destroyed as well as homes, latrines, cattle pens, arable land and grazing land,” the villagers said in a petition addressed to Moyo.
Upon completion, the pipeline will carry 160 000 megalitres of water to Bulawayo daily.
In a statement on November 29, Zinwa said the project is proceeding as planned with the pipeline to Bulawayo and associated water treatment works expected to be functional before the end of 2022.
To speed up construction, a 24hour shift is now in place and the government has also contracted six contractors to lay the pipeline.
Ncube adds: “Of concern is that the government is not serious about its constitutional responsibility towards compensating the villagers that are likely to be affected by the laying of the pipeline.
“The constitution is very clear. It requires that for any action that is going to affect the people in a way, there must be adequate compensation for people. People must be assisted to relocate at the expense of the government.”
Gwayi-Shangani dam will have a holding capacity of 634 million cubic metres. The dam is part of the greater Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) that was identified in 1912 as a long-term solution to the perennial water challenges faced in Matabeleland North, South, and Bulawayo provinces.
In a position paper recently, the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) said the planned relocations are inhumane and cause disruption of social, cultural and religious values and systems of Binga villagers among other human rights violations.
In its recommendations, the MIHR urges the government to fully adopt and adhere to the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.
“The relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committees should be mandated to visit the affected communities before and after relocations to ensure that appropriate policy and action measures are being taken to alleviate gross human rights violations,” the MIHR adds.
Ncube argues that the affected villagers must be the first to benefit from the dam construction as part of their compensation.
“They must also be the first ones to be considered for benefiting from the pipeline in terms of greening Matabeleland,” Ncube says.
“It is a local resource that must be owned by the local people. They must be compensated adequately, they must have their homes built elsewhere by the government, even the cattle must be moved – everything has to be taken care of by the government.”
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organization that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.