Zim@42: Muzarabani oil won’t leave local communities behind 

Source: Zim@42: Muzarabani oil won’t leave local communities behind | The Herald

Zim@42: Muzarabani oil won’t leave local communities behind
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Monica Mavhunga, expressed her hopes over the oil and gas project.

Fungai Lupande-Mashonaland Central Bureau

Ever since President Mnangagwa took office in 2017, he has been determined to make Zimbabwe the investment destination of choice so as to grow the economy and improve the quality of life for the people.

He once remarked that: “My Government remains desirous to make Zimbabwe a favourable investment destination, where capital feels safe.

“The broad economic reforms rolled out are now beginning to bear fruit. These have resulted in a conducive environment predicated on a private sector-led development approach.”

As a testimony to his commitment, the country has opened the way for the Muzarabani oil and gas project, which is one of the biggest investments in decades.

This project has a huge potential to become a key asset for Zimbabwe and to aid economic recovery, facilitate economic growth, create employment and encourage a climate conducive for attracting investors to the country. 

And, as the country prepares to mark its 42nd Uhuru celebrations in Bulawayo this year, the Government is keen that the oil project must not leave the Muzarabani rural people behind.

This resonates well with this year’s independence celebrations theme: “Leaving no one and no place behind”, as the Second Republic moves to ensure that foreign investment also benefits rural communities and permeates all facets of their livelihoods.

As Invictus Energy wait with bated breath for the oil and gas discovery in July this year, the Muzarabani-Mbire community is unwavering in their belief that the ancestors have this time favoured their community and Zimbabwe. 

Two exploration wells will be drilled in June or July and these will determine the quantities of oil underground. The wells will be drilled at the cost of US$200 000 per day.

Chiefs in Muzarabani-Mbire believe that the ancestors are driving the success of this project.

All eight chiefs in Muzarabani and Mbire carried out traditional rituals so that the ancestors can pave way for successful exploration and drilling of oil and gas.

Invictus Energy board of directors, who are based overseas, came to Muzarabani for the first time to meet with the community, chiefs and ministers to brief them on the progress they have made so far into the project.

Chief Matsiwo said the medium spirits revealed that oil and gas will be discovered if all traditional processes are followed.

“The spirit mediums said we will discover the resource and we are sure because they are the owners of the land. We have no doubt,” he said.

“We were advised to consult the ancestors before drilling and they will pave way for successful discovery. We will celebrate after the discovery, at the moment we are only consulting.” 

Traditional consultations and rituals were conducted by the chiefs before exploration work started. 

Chief Hwata said all underground resources, including gold, belong to the ancestors and they cannot be explored without consulting the owners through spirit mediums.

“In Muzarabani, we have Nyatsimba Mutota, Madzimbabwe, one of the great spirit mediums of the country,” he said. 

“Chiwawa, Chivhere Madzomba and other spirit mediums led and directed us on what to do.

“When we consult them we don’t give them any information, they are the ones who tell us what we are seeking and guide us. This gives us strength and belief that they know everything and drive success.

“We have trust in our spirit mediums and during the liberation struggle they led freedom fighters to victory. The white people understand our culture, that is why they consult chiefs before doing anything.

“When we don’t follow the rituals we might not find the resource when it is actually there.” 

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Monica Mavhunga, expressed her hopes over the oil and gas project.

“As a province, our prayer is that the exploration process yield positive results,” she said. 

“The major objective of this project is towards improving the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of this province and that of the nation.

“Oil and gas is the life-blood for economic progression. It is our hope that this project will not only realise the aspirations of Zimbabwe, but ensure the attainment of vision 2030.

“We appreciate Invictus Energy for the respect towards traditional rituals and norms in the implementation of this project. The company supported the performance of traditional rights and rituals to ensure that this projects is a success.”

Geo Associates managing director, Mr Paul Chimbodza, said after obtaining a licence in 2017, the first step was to come down to Muzarabani and Mbire and engage the community through chiefs.

“We thank the chiefs and the community for allowing us to enter this place with our machines and do the exploration work. Most of our meetings were held under the fig tree,” he said.

“We were fortunate to inherit some of the mobile data collected 30 years ago. We put the data through new software and computer power. We re-evaluated and reinterpreted the data. 

“Two consulting companies went through the data and came back with exciting information which gave us the momentum to proceed.

“Last year we brought big machines to continue gathering data. Mobile data collection was done on a wide spacing and we managed to refine the information though seismic process.”

Mr Chimbodza said the information they have indicate that they can go ahead and drill.

He said they contacted a rig which is currently in Songosongo, Tanzania, which will move into Zimbabwe in May.

“When the rigger is on site, it will take two to three weeks to mount and start drilling,” said Mr Chimbodza. 

“The plan is to do two deep wells, we ask for the usual support from our traditional leaders and key stakeholders.

“These two wells are critical because we don’t know that oil and gas is there. We have all the sophisticated equipment to use, but the ultimate answer lies in the drilling.

“We have a 10 percent chance of success despite spending US$40 million. A lot of time is being spent being meticulous on where to drill.

“If we find the oil and gas, more drilling and seismic work will take place. Once we obtain the resource Zimbabwe will become energy and fuel self-sufficient.” 

Mr Chimbodza said the corporate social responsibility projects were driven by the community needs. 

London-based Invictus Energy chairman Mr Stuart Lake said he was excited to be in Zimbabwe.

“Times have changed since the Mobile oil and gas potential discovery in the past 30 years,” he said. 

“If we are successful in finding gas and oil, we want to share that journey with you.

“Zimbabwe has developed a supportive jurisdiction coupled with a high culture infrastructure, we have multiple downstream opportunities. We see the future already happening now.

“There is a massive need for energy in the region. However, there is a less chance of success that is why we want to drill two wells. We don’t want this to be another 30 years before someone else comes back.

“We reprocessed and analysed Mobile data with modern day techniques, high resolution and we are donating the data to the Zimbabwean public for free. Anyone who want to look at the data is welcome.”

Mr Lake said they were giving back to the community to understand the communities, how they operate and their needs which need to be addressed.

He said their focus was on health and education because they wanted to leave a legacy as good corporate citizens.

“At this stage the Government doesn’t have to spend any money until we have commercial success. We are taking the risk and if we are successful we will share the rewards together,” he said.

“We are betting on these two holes. In Namibia they were successful after drilling 30 dry holes. We won’t know if there is oil unless we drill and if there is a discovery we will announce it publicly.

“The Government, local traditional leader and the community were very supportive and made our exploration work possible.”