Developing the country’s water infrastructure, which is key to establishing a prosperous society, is one of the major targets of the National Development Strategy 1. Government, through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), has since embarked on various projects to develop strategic water infrastructure countrywide for agriculture, domestic and industrial use. The Sunday Mail’s Deputy News Editor, Lincoln Towindo, engaged the Zinwa chief executive officer, Engineer Taurayi Maurikira, on projects that are presently underway.
Q: Can you outline some of the major projects being undertaken by Zinwa under the National Development Strategy 1, which will possibly contribute towards the attainment of an upper middle-income economy?
A: Zinwa is implementing various projects which are expected to help propel the country towards transformation into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Water is a critical economic enabler cutting across socio-economic sectors such as health, agriculture, sanitation, energy and manufacturing.
Zinwa is carrying out projects that are expected to result in improved food security, improved water and sanitation, employment creation and poverty alleviation, all which are preconditions for the attainment of Vision 2030.
These projects include the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and the Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo Pipeline, which are part of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, and are meant to improve the water situation in Bulawayo.
Construction work is also ongoing at Semwa Dam, Dande Dam and Tunnel, Mbada Dam (formerly Silverstroom Dam) and Bindura Dam in Mashonaland Central.
These projects, on completion, will open the way for the establishment of serious irrigation activity running into thousands of hectares in the province and help spur agricultural production.
There is also the construction of Chivhu Dam and water treatment plant in Mashonaland East Province, while in Matabeleland South, Tuli-Manyange Dam is also under construction.
Construction of Kunzvi Dam — Harare’s additional water source — has also commenced, while construction work will also begin this year at Vungu Dam in the Midlands Province and Ziminya Dam in Nkayi, Matabeleland North.
The ultimate goal is to bump the country’s water storage capacity to around 12 billion cubic meters, which will then allow us to put at least 350 000 hectares of land under irrigation.
Q: We understand that Zinwa is leading a countrywide borehole drilling programme. Can you outline the work you have done so far and what you intend to do going forward?
A: Zinwa is involved in the drilling of 35 000 boreholes countrywide in line with the NDS1 to improve rural livelihoods.
During the year 2021, 1 800 boreholes were targeted.
The ultimate intention of the programme is to have at least a borehole per village and reduce to less than one kilometre the average distance one has to travel to get water.
The expected date for the completion of the 35 000 boreholes is 2025.
To date, Zinwa has worked with Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution to identify the sites for these boreholes.
Siting of the boreholes is currently in progress and 276 boreholes have since been drilled.
To expedite progress, Zinwa is procuring 40 borehole drilling rigs, which will be delivered starting this November.
These boreholes are expected to anchor the Presidential Horticultural Programme, which will in turn lead to the creation of village industrial centres in line with the rural industrialisation agenda.
Q: The development of irrigation schemes is key to drought-proof agriculture. Can you outline what Zinwa is doing to facilitate the development of irrigation schemes?
A: Zinwa’s mandate has been expanded to include the entire chain of irrigation development.
This will see Zinwa being involved in developing conveyance systems as well as infield developments.
All dam contracts, which are currently running, will be varied to include full irrigation development.
This measure will see 81 603 hectares of irrigation being developed.
Zinwa also chairs a standing technical committee within the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, which has been tasked to facilitate the development of at least 350 000 hectares of irrigation by 2025.
Through Zinwa, a strategy document on how this is going to be achieved has been produced.
The strategy to achieve the 350 000 hectares includes the rehabilitation of non-functional irrigation schemes, which should open up about 45 000 hectares, expansion of existing networks targeting areas with potential for further development and with underutilised water bodies, which should yield an estimated 83 647 hectares and the development of irrigation systems for ongoing dam projects resulting in the realisation of 81 603 hectares.
The increased utilisation of groundwater resources and transboundary river systems is expected to bring on board 39 500 hectares.
When we add these figures to the existing developed irrigation systems, we will get to and exceed the desired 355 000 hectares.
Our total will be 360 000 hectares.
The Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Plan seeks to climate-proof the country and help Zimbabwe migrate from rain-fed agriculture to more reliance on irrigation.
From now going forward, we are now a food-secure country.
Q: Potable water has been a challenge in many cities and towns for years. What is Zinwa doing to help with the development of potable water reticulation infrastructure?
A: The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) emphasises on the importance of water provision in order for Zimbabwe to attain Vision 2030.
We appreciate that potable water is a challenge in most of our cities and Zinwa, being the Government’s water resources management lead agency, is mandated with the task to ensure that there is equitable development, distribution and utilisation of the country’s water resources.
To this end, Zinwa is doing everything in its power to help improve water provision in cities, and this is happening through a three-pronged approach.
The first approach is the construction of dams for purposes of providing reliable sources of water for towns and cities.
For example, we are constructing Chivhu Dam to improve water provision in Chivhu, Kunzvi Dam for provision of water in Harare and Gwayi-Shangani Dam for water provision in Bulawayo.
These new water bodies will pave way for improved water provision even in the major towns and cities where local authorities, through delegated authority, provide water to residents. The second approach is in relation to the small towns, growth points and rural service centres where Zinwa is responsible for the provision of potable water.
Here we are running a programme to rehabilitate and upgrade water treatment plants so that we are able to adequately supply water.
In places such as Chivhu, we are actually constructing a new and bigger water treatment plant.
The programme will see stations such as Rushinga, Filabusi, Esigodini, Dete, Parerihwa and Nyanga, among others, being rehabilitated.
The last approach is that of providing technical assistance to local authorities in need of the same for improving their water delivery capacity.
Q: Can you outline progress with the development of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and how its development will benefit the Matabeleland provinces?
A: The construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam is on course with the expected date of completion being December 2021.
Treasury allocated $4,5 billion towards the dam in the 2021 fiscal year, which should see the construction work through to completion.
The dam will, on completion, become Zimbabwe’s third-largest inland water body after Tugwi-Mukosi and Lake Mutirikwi, both in Masvingo.
Gwayi-Shangani Dam is part of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project and is coming in as part of the long-term solutions to the perennial water challenges in the city of Bulawayo.
A pipeline will connect the dam to Bulawayo, and the same pipeline will have provisions for several offtakes that will allow communities along its path to draw water for purposes of irrigation.
This will help improve food security for the communities as well as help in poverty alleviation.
Construction of the pipeline will be commencing soon once the current administrative issues are completed.
Q: You recently appointed a contractor for the development of Kunzvi Dam. Can you outline the scope of work that is set to take place and how the development of the water body will help address perennial water shortages in the capital?
A: Kunzvi Dam has always been touted as the solution to water challenges bedevilling Harare.
The scope of work includes the construction of the water reservoir, which is expected to be substantially complete in 2023.
The dam will then become an additional source of raw water for Harare, supplying mainly the eastern suburbs that have gone for many years without water because the city’s current water treatment infrastructure can no longer meet demand.
What this means is that a pipeline will connect the dam to Harare, where a new water treatment plant to service the eastern suburbs will also be constructed.
Construction of the dam has started in earnest as the contractor is now on the ground following the award of the contract and the subsequent site handover to the contractor.
Q: Recently there have been reports in the press alleging that Zinwa awarded the tender to China Nanchang for the construction of Kunzvi Dam, despite the existence of a lower bid. Can you set the record straight on exactly what happened?
A: Indeed, there have been some negative reports around the award of the Kunzvi Dam tender.
The tender was awarded in line with the requirements of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.
After Zinwa completed the adjudication process, the paperwork was sent to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) for review by the Special Procurement Oversight Committee, which also agreed with what we had done.
However, tenders are not awarded on the basis of price alone.
There is no obligation to award the lowest bidder.
Tenders are adjudicated based on three broad categories of preliminary or compulsory requirements, technical requirements and financials.
A weighted score on those three parameters is what determines who gets the tender or not.
Price is just but one of the factors considered when determining tenders.
So, we are convinced that we met the requirements of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act in the disposal of the Kunzvi Dam tender and we are pleased that the contractor has already moved to the site to start the construction work after none of the losing bidders lodged a valid challenge to the award of the tender.
Q: How much is Zinwa owed by institutions that continue to receive potable water supply services and what measures have you put in place to ensure that you recover the money you are owed?
A: The authority is owed $2,3 billion by various clients across the board.
The figure represents money owed from as far back as 2013 by some clients despite them receiving water from Zinwa.
Government departments and ministries account for the largest chunk of the debt, owing $875 million, or 36,5 percent of the total debtors’ book.
Local authorities come second, owing $524 million, which translates to 21,8 percent of the total amount owed, while irrigators account for $436 million, or 18,2 percent of the total debts owed.
Domestic users are responsible for $266 million, or 11,2 percent of the debt.
We have put in place a cocktail of measures to recover this money as the revenue is very important for sustainable service delivery.
These measures are inclusive of litigation, engagement with the concerned clients and as a last resort, the disconnection of water supplies.
These efforts are paying dividends as the global figure owed has started going down.
For example, by the end of June, the debt stood at slightly over $2,4 billion.
We are also rolling out prepaid water meters, which should be able to help us collect this money while putting a cap on the growth of the debtors’ book.
We also continue to appeal to our clients to understand that there is an intricate relationship between service delivery and paying for the services.
Revenue realised from the payments is ploughed back into service delivery, as it is used to procure water treatment chemicals, plant spares, fuel and electricity required for water production.
The authority is, however, happy with the progress that Government is making towards retiring their debt, which is progressively being reduced.
If one was to look at what Government owed in June and what they owe now, there is evident reduction of the debt as Government has honoured the payment commitments it made during our interactions and engagements. We really applaud that.
Q: We understand that Zinwa is installing smart water meters countrywide. Can you give us an update on this development?
A: Zinwa is installing prepaid water meters for its clients across the country.
The target is to have 35 000 prepaid water meters installed by the end of the year.
The meters have started arriving and installation has also started in earnest in centres such as Nyanga and Murehwa.
We have also installed water meters in Mvurwi and Chivhu where we did the piloting. Our belief is that prepaid water meters help give clients control of their water bills and water consumption patterns, as clients will now only use what they would have paid for.
This should also assist us in improving revenue collection and raising the necessary resources required for sustainable service delivery.
The meters are envisaged to help reduce the amount of money we are owed.