ED visits projects in Matebeleland North

President Mangangwa with Western Coal and Energy Company officails in Hwange today

THE devolution policy being spearheaded by President Mnangagwa has started bearing fruits in Matabeleland North as evidenced by the full implementation of key economic projects signaling the birth of a new economic hub.

The President arrived in Bulawayo yesterday ahead of his visit to Hwange in Matabeleland North today and tomorrow to tour coal mining and power generation projects, which are being implemented in fulfillment of his promise to ensure the realisation of the province’s full economic potential.

The devolution thrust is set to transform the province previously viewed as lagging behind in terms of development despite its vast natural resources.

The coal, coke, and energy value chain alone has the potential to transform the province and create thousands of jobs. Riding under the new dispensation’s devolution drive, the coal sector, combined with other critical sectors such as tourism, timber, gold mining, and agriculture, could rapidly propel the province to greater heights.

Speaking to Chronicle last night, presidential spokesperson Mr. George Charamba said the President’s two-day working visit to the province is an indication of his hands-on approach by visiting economic activity areas in the country.

“This whole effort is a validation of the decentralisation and devolution policy where we are now saying provinces must evolve their own economies. What we are now looking at is headway on the part of Matabeleland North, which is now beginning to identify those assets which will drive its own economy as a devolved provincial entity,” he said.

Mr. Charamba said the President’s mantra has been production, which therefore requires him to be in the field to see how things are moving.

“We are likely to see a very hectic period for the President as he will be operating from outside office to see what is actually happening on the ground.

“Remember the President’s mantra has been production, production, and certainly that requires him to be in the field to see how things are moving. The President has gone on a two-day working visit in Hwange indicating this new hands-on approach, which will characterise the greater part of the year where he will be visiting economic activity areas in the country, and that is inspection in loco,” he said.

Today the President and his delegation have a hectic schedule as he would tour coal mining projects here and officially open South Mining coking plant.

The coal sector is a key enabler to the wider economy whose growth has to be buttressed by other critical capital projects in the province, which have been in limbo for years.

Despite the external economic shocks, business leaders and economic analysts have hailed the progress made so far under the new dispensation, with this week’s visit set to showcase some of the milestones.

Matabeleland North Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo, captured the mood of the province in an interview ahead of the President’s visit.

“We want to thank the President and the new dispensation for changing the face of Matabeleland North by fulfilling the promise to complete outstanding capital projects and attracting new investment. The province is poised to realise its full potential.

“The visit alone shows that he (the President) doesn’t separate Matabeleland North from other provinces,” he said.

“It shows that the President treats all provinces the same and wants all the provinces to develop. His coming here gives us great joy. The companies that are coming here for coke battery and coal mining are investors that come through Harare and have been directed to Matabeleland North.”

Minister Moyo said the limelight given to Matabeleland North by Government and investors has empowered the province whose unemployed youths stand to benefit from job opportunities created by new companies and big capital projects funded by Government.

The steady progress towards the completion of capital projects would totally transform the fortunes of the province. For instance, Minister Moyo said the Matabeleland North Provincial Hospital that had been long envisaged finally took off under the new dispensation and is now 40 percent complete. Our news crew yesterday observed part of workers on-site working on the projects.

“We have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown otherwise the Provincial Hospital would have been far by now. We have written to the President for a waiver for contractors involved in projects in the province so that when they pass in quarantine centres in their country, they are put in one plane and sent here so that we continue with work,” he said.

The Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 expansion project also comes under focus and considerable progress has been done.

The project will cost $1,5 billion and is expected to deliver an additional 600 megawatts; 300W from each unit, on top of the average of 920MW the old power station is installed to generate. President Mnangagwa commissioned the expansion project two years ago and is set for completion in 2022.

The province’s road infrastructure also needs urgent attention and the veins of logistical movement for the economy. In this regard, Minister Moyo said efforts were being done to spruce the dilapidated road network.

“There is a 2,2 kilometre stretch in Gwayi that needed urgent attention and has been attended to and has been re-opened for traffic.

“The Bulawayo-Nkayi Road upgrade was supposed to have started in the first quarter on the 10km stretch but we were delayed by rains and after the rains, Covid-19 struck.

“Since they have finished the Gwayi stretch, focus will be on the Bulawayo-Nkayi-Road and Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road,” he said.

The Minister said the required material for the two roads has been secured and on the second of August work will start on the Bulawayo-Nkayi-road and Bulawayo -Tsholotsho Road.

Some of the notable projects in the province include the Gwayi-Shangani Dam project, a critical component towards solving water challenges in the province, and the completion of Elitsheni Government Complex, which will pave way for relocation of public workers who are still operating from Bulawayo.

As a conveyor of tourism and business traffic, the Bulawayo -Victoria Falls road also needs expansion and is under Treasury focus.- The Chronicle.