This was announced by a clearly excited mines and mining development minister Zhemu Soda at a media briefing on Thursday, 7th December 2023.
According to the statement, Australian firm Invictus Energy and its local partner One Gas Resources have discovered condensate gas at their Mukuyu-2 exploration site in Mbire (Mashonaland Central province).
Zhemu described the find as one of the most significant developments in the offshore oil and gas sector in the Southern African region.
Invictus Energy noted this development as a potential game changer for Zimbabwe’s economic growth and energy sector.
These ‘potential game changing’ benefits include faster economic growth, increased export earnings, energy security (in the midst of a crippling power crisis), job creation, and creation of new downstream industries.
Natural condensate gas, also called natural gas liquid, is a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids that are present as gaseous components in the raw natural gas produced from many natural gas fields.
These are usually used in power generation and the manufacture of petrol, jet fuel, diesel, and heating fuels.
This should all be good news for the people of Zimbabwe – especially in increased revenue flows for the country – which would ordinarily result in an improved standard of living.
However, this is Zimbabwe!
Things do not always pan out as expected or go according to the typical trends of life.
In a normal country, such discoveries would signal the end to any suffering or poverty – with the majority of citizens living in relative comfort and splendor.
This is precisely what is witnessed in countries in the Middle East – such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE (United Arab Emirates), and many more – whose people enjoy a very high standard of living.
In all this, these countries’ major, if not sole, resource is natural gas (and of course the closely associated petroleum).
They do not have gold, or diamonds, or platinum, or lithium, or any other notable natural resources except these two (gas and oil).
Nonetheless, a visit to or bit of research on Riyadh, Kuwait City, Doha, or Dubai easily tells of nations whose wealth has cascaded to every facet of society.
Not only that, but these are ranked amongst the richest countries in the world – with a combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of US$7.04 trillion and a growth rate of 3.2 percent.
So, indeed, the discovery of natural gas in Zimbabwe is a ‘potential game changer’ for our nation.
Nevertheless, let us not get too excited.
Invictus Energy is correct: the operative word here is ‘potential’!
As I mentioned before, this is Zimbabwe!
The country has the ‘potential’ for so many phenomenal achievements – and yet here we are!
This a country which already boasts of the largest reserves of lithium in Africa, the second platinum deposits in the world, the seventh largest producer of diamonds, and the second largest gold reserves per square kilometer.
This is a far cry from Middle East states that only have one or two natural resources to their names.
Yet, here we are – with 49 percent of the population living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1.90 a day), as two-thirds of the workforce live below the poverty datum line.
This, in the midst of an ever-depreciating local currency now trading between ZW$5,827 and ZW$8,000 to one US dollar.
Our public health care institutions are in a sorry state – lacking essential medications, functional cancer machines, ambulances, and other necessities.
Furthermore, during the 2022/23 season, more than 3.8 million people in rural areas faced food insecurity at peak – such that they required some form of aid.
As a matter of fact, hunger has hit urban areas with a vengeance, with up to 2.2 million people in our towns and cities regarded as food insecure.
Most of our urban dwellers do not even have ready access to safe potable water – having gone for months or years without the precious liquid in their homes – effectively turning these places into glorified rural areas.
In spite of those amazing statistics pertaining to our natural resources, Zimbabwe still goes for hours each day without electricity due to woefully insufficient generation from our dilapidated antiquated power stations.
Let us not forget that this is the same country with not even a single soccer stadium that meets international standards, such that our national team has to play its ‘home matches’ in foreign lands.
It is nearly impossible to tell how having the second largest gold reserves in the world per square kilometer has benefited us.
In what way have ordinary Zimbabweans prospered since the discovery of diamonds over 18 years ago?
Are the people of Marange better off today than they were two decades ago before diamonds were mined in their area?
What good to us have been the vast deposits of platinum or lithium?
Do those in Mbire actually believe good times await them with this natural gas discovery?
If they are lucky, they may have a classroom block or two, or a road here and there built for them, and their youth given some menial jobs.
However, they will continue languishing in abject poverty – despite the abundant wealth in their area enriching the powerful.
So, what is there to celebrate in the recent discovery of natural gas?
Will revenue from this resource not merely go the same direction as our gold, platinum, lithium, diamonds, and gold – in the pockets of the ruling elite?
If Zimbabweans’ standards of living could not improve after the discovery of diamonds, platinum, and lithium – how will natural gas coming on board help us?
Quite frankly, for millions of ordinary Zimbabweans, there is absolutely nothing to celebrate.
For us, whether Zimbabwe was endowed with the world’s most sought-after resources or had totally nothing does not change anything.
We will always be poor, hungry, and suffering!
Only those in power and their business partners have cause for excitement!
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com, or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/