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Seat interview: Minister of Water Resources and Development Sam
Gonda, SW Radio Africa
Journalist Violet Gonda
interviews Minister of Water Resources, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo. Water
is a basic human right that is central to everything, including
public health and stability. What is the status of Zimbabwe's
water crisis, now that it's in the hands of the MDC and how
does Nkomo plan to improve the distribution of this critical resource?
The Minister also gives us a rare glimpse into the progress of the
inclusive government, which he says is suffering from 'hygiene'
issues. Nkomo also confirms that Robert Mugabe is refusing to swear
in MDC official Roy Bennett as the new deputy Minister of Agriculture.
Gonda: Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the Minister of Water Resources
& Development is my guest on the programme Hot Seat. How are
you Mr Nkomo?
Sipepa Nkomo: I'm very well Violet. Thank you for
You're welcome. Now let's start with your Ministry,
what does it do exactly?
Well my Ministry administers the Water Act as well as the ZINWA
Act. The Water Act is required to make sure that there is water
for every citizen in Zimbabwe and uses ZINWA as its arm for achieving
that objective. And the second is making sure that there are sufficient
dams, boreholes around the country for the provision of water which
is in the quantity and the quality that is acceptable for human
consumption. And we also deliver water to the farms for irrigation
and that is to assist in the economic development of the country,
particularly as you know agriculture is the backbone of our economy.
And also as the regulatory authority just to make sure that the
water that is delivered, even by those that deliver it to households,
is of acceptable quality. So that basically is what the Ministry
of Water does.
Gonda: You are on record
telling delegates at a recent Water Summit in Bulawayo that the
next war in Zimbabwe will be over water. What did you mean by that?
Nkomo: Well, what I said
was that water is a precious liquid as much as the petrol or diesel
or oil is a precious liquid and I said that if there was going to
be another world war it would not be fought on the basis of oil
- the Iraqi war or the Arabic oil - the war would be fought over
water. The water resource is getting scarcer and scarcer in the
world, and as you might know, only about 2.5% of the world water
is usable for human consumption. 96 per cent is salt so it cannot
be used and so it is a scarce resource that we need to manage for
mutual benefit of all citizens of the world and if it is mismanaged,
the next war will be about water.
Gonda: So where Zimbabwe
is concerned, what are the Ministry's priorities?
Nkomo: In so as far
as Zimbabwe is concerned, we do share some of the water basins with
our neighbours; the Zambezi water basin, the Pungwe water basin,
the Limpopo water basin that we share with our neighbours -
Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa. So
we do have protocols on water as to how to use those big rivers
that we share in our various boundaries. But most importantly, is
actually harnessing the water before it flows into the ocean, that
we actually build dams. What the Ministry of Water is supposed to
be doing is to be ahead of the demand for water by ten years, so
that as the population grows water must actually be available by
providing dams that harness water in the rivers, digging boreholes
and making sure that water is available. So that's the priority
- making sure that water is available to the citizens, clean
water is available to the citizens.
Gonda: If I can ask specifically
about the Zambezi Water Project, this project has been on hold for
many years, so what is the status of this project right now?
Nkomo: Well as you might
appreciate Violet, I've been in office for just one month,
now what I find is that perhaps there was no political will on this
project, the Zambezi Water Project, there was no political will.
But what is happening is that all these kinds of projects are on
hold now for lack of funding, but I can tell you that the first
phase is about constructing the Gwayi-Shangani Dam. And once that
is constructed, that's the first phase and contractors are
on site but work has stopped because of lack of funding. Once that
is done, then a pipeline will be constructed from the Zambezi to
bring water into the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and then another phase of
a pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani Dam right up to Bulawayo .
That's not a cheap
kind of project. It will involve about 450 kilometres of pipeline
and that's not cheap and so I'm not surprised that it
has taken them so many years because I think that it is a big project
that might require private sector partnership with the public sector.
And I've just begun to understand, I'm consulting everybody,
the Malaysians and those that are responsible, not forgetting Violet
that the Zambezi Project will also have to involve the countries
that we share the Zambezi basin with. And I'm going to be
talking to the Zambians, I'm going to be talking with the
Batswanas, I'm going to be talking to Mozambique . So that's
where it is, it hasn't moved much but I'm hopeful that
we can move the agenda particularly in the completion of the Gwayi-Shangani
Gonda: So what is the
estimated budget that will help meet your challenges?
Nkomo: If it had been
done at the time when it was mooted and when I looked at the file,
this project was mooted around 1912 . . .
Gonda: Did you say 1912?
Nkomo: 1912 Violet. It
was before you and I were born. And so it would have been cheaper
then but now it's not going to be and particularly that our
economy is not doing well. And if you ask me how much will it cost?
I can't tell you that because I think that there will be have
to be new quantification of this, the engineers will have to go
into it, the quantity surveyors, the valuators and we don't
have that figure right now. And if I said a 100billion dollars it
will not help because it may not be so. So I think that as I start
this project, I'm now asking for a revaluation particularly
first of all of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam itself because it's
where I'm trying to get the contractors back to continue the
work of constructing that dam. So I couldn't tell you a particular
figure at the moment.
Gonda: And you mentioned
earlier on about the Zimbabwe National Water Authority or ZINWA,
now the Residents' Association have said that they have no
confidence in this ZINWA, so how do you intend to market this water
Nkomo: Well I think that
- let me just give you the background - ZINWA's role, ZINWA's
responsibility is not about delivering water to householders particularly
in the major urban areas, cities and towns. ZINWA's responsibility
is delivering bulk raw water and then the urban authorities are
now going to take the water, purify it and distribute it to households.
Now that's its core business - except in the other smaller
towns, growth points where ZINWA does deliver clear water.
So it was wrong in the
first place to give ZINWA the responsibility of delivering water
to householders, that's the responsibility of a local authority.
Now that the local authority, now that responsibility has gone back
to the local authorities, ZINWA can now revert to doing what it
knows best, what the ZINWA Act actually requires it to do -
that's to deliver bulk, raw water to local authorities and
that's what they will continue to do. And they will continue
to deliver clear water to growth points and to rural areas and so
forth, that's what it is going to do.
So for instance, I had
a meeting with the Harare City Council and ZINWA together, I had
the Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo with me and so
we had a very good meeting. I'm trying to create a rapport
between ZINWA and the local authorities who must receive raw water
from us, because the work of ZINWA and the work of the local authorities
should not be in conflict. Actually they compliment each other,
the other delivers raw water, bulk water, the other receives it
and delivers to the citizens.
And so I had this same
meeting in Bulawayo with the Bulawayo City Council, but as you know
the Bulawayo City Council had resisted ZINWA taking over the distribution
of water in the townships and the low density areas. So for Bulawayo
and in Harare , I think the relationship is good. But what we are
doing for Bulawayo because their water is actually not sufficient,
their dams are not sufficient to supply them with the water, and
the water is a problem in Bulawayo, so what we are doing in the
Ministry and ZINWA is to try and connect a pipeline between Mtshabezi
Dam which is full with UmzingwaneDam which is not so full - so that
Bulawayo can have a constant supply of water. And so that's
what we are doing and I'm sure that in the next six months or next
hundred days which we have been given, results will show and the
cooperation between ZINWA and its clients, the local authorities
is actually becoming good.
Gonda: You know it has
been said that water is central to everything including public health
and stability, now do you agree that water is the centre of all
Nkomo: Yes I do. It is
so central that in my view, water is central to life and water is
a human right. That is why delivering water to the citizens is the
citizen's right and denying the citizen water, you are denying
the citizen his human rights and so to us, water is critical. Which
is why, in the first two/three weeks of becoming Minister of Water,
I did issue a directive to all local authorities that there is not
going to be a water disconnection for any reason in Zimbabwe for
any citizen and that no-one can have a water disconnection. Yes,
you can disconnect any other thing, you can disconnect radio, disconnect
television, electricity, but water cannot be disconnected and I
issued that directive to all local authorities in the country.
Gonda: So are you saying
that since you've been Minister, in the last month and a half,
there's not been any water cuts? We have not seen any water
Nkomo: No.Look Violet,
there is no way you can cut water. If the citizen owes money to
any local authority all they need to do is fight him on the side
but you cannot disconnect water.
Gonda: But you're
saying there's no way you can cut water or disconnect water
- it's been happening in Zimbabwe where people, especially
residents in areas like Mabvuku, Tafara, some of them have had no
water for months.
Nkomo: No, the water
disconnection I am talking about is not a failure to deliver water
to the whole Mabvuku, whole Tafara - that's a different
problem, it's not disconnection. You see, our pipes in Zimbabwe,
our pumps in Zimbabwe are so broken down, the pipes are so worn
down and dilapidated that it becomes difficult even to take water
because there are so many water pipe bursts, sewer pipe bursts and
so o. So for places like Mabvuku and so on, it's not about
disconnection, it's about our failure to get water to that
particular residential area because the pump is broken down and
we are unable to pump and Mabvuku as I know it, the gravitation,
you have to pump water going up and for that reason, sometimes the
pumps fail and we are looking at that very closely.
I can tell you that in
areas like Glen View in Harare and Budiriro, where we had the Aids
pandemic, when I came in there was no water and we begun to work
on the Morton Jeffrey Water Works and we installed two pumps, pump
number one and pump number four and water began to flow in to Glen
View. I've visited Glen View and they tell me 'oh after
ten months of the absence of water, water has begun to flow into
our taps' and we are working on Mabvuku and those other areas . . .
Gonda: But how long will
it take the Ministry to get water distribution under control and
working in these other areas like Mabvuku and Tafara?
Nkomo: I can tell you
Violet that we are doing our very best but with limited resources.
Sometimes you find that until we get some funds, I am actually going
to be talking to donors, also to try and come to our assistance.
There's no way we are going to get this right until we get
cooperating partners, other governments and the donors coming in
to help. It's just not going to be possible. I'm talking
to everybody who cares to listen, I'm talking to Embassies,
I'm going to be talking to other countries, the European Union,
America, Britain,, the Norwegians, the Swedes - I'm talking
to everybody and I'm hoping that they can actually understand
and help us. The STERP document that has been launched for us here
recognizes that problem and we are trying to get everybody to help
us, using that STERP document.
Gonda: Now while you're
not the Minister of Health, can you comment though on the cholera
epidemic and the role your Ministry is playing to stop its spread?
Nkomo: Yes, the Minister
of Health, Dr Madzorera and I do cooperate sometimes in various
fora because water and health is intertwined. The absence of water
would create the water borne diseases that we saw in Harare and
other places. And I'm very sorry that we lost 4000 people,
but as I said Violet, we would need money, we would need resources
to fight the cholera epidemic. That is top priority for us and once
we are done, we will not have cholera again in Zimbabwe. That's
what we are aiming to do and I think that there's willingness
on our part to do whatever we can do to make sure that is done.
Gonda: What is the state
of the sewerage management and borehole rehabilitation?
Nkomo: Yes, let me start
off first with the sewerage management. If I say to you it's
a disaster, it's an understatement, it's a very serious
matter because, you know when you don't have water to push
the sewerage, the sewerage solidifies and when it solidifies, the
pipes underground expand and when they expand because there's
no water going through, they crack and some of the pipes underground,
the sewerage pipes underground are over fifty years old and all
of them are iron and they rust and so the management of sewer is
in bad shape.
And as you might also
appreciate our sewer waste water is flowing into our dams and as
a result the water becomes much more contaminated. Now for us to
purify that water you require up to about ten chemicals to get that
water purified and that's the biggest problem. As for the
rehabilitation of boreholes, again that's a very important
area and I had a Water Summit last Friday here in Bulawayo where
all the issues were raised and discussed. We did have cooperating
partners, donor agencies, we did have NGOs and on Wednesday this
week I had all the experts in my office in Harare, they were crafting
out a programme of action which I will receive next week which will
guide us as to how to rehabilitate boreholes, how to deal with the
I'm also talking
to those companies that manufacture chemicals - that's another
headache that we have Violet - chemicals is our biggest problem.
And let me just tell
you something, if you give me 14 million US dollars I would have
chemicals for six months for the whole country and if you gave me
28 million dollars I would have chemicals for the whole country
for one year. So I actually say to our cooperating partners give
me that so that we can have this chemical headache behind us, to
enable us to begin preparing chemicals, how to get chemicals for
the future. So that's another area where we need partners
to help us out.
Gonda: I actually spoke
with the Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa last week and he was
also talking about the same issues that if he had the funds then
he would be able to run this ministry properly but it appears that
the international community has said that it is willing to help
but it's saying that it will only come in once it sees that
there is meaningful change. So what is happening on that score because
if you look at the situation on the ground, we are still receiving
reports of disturbances on the farms, political violence, MDC activists
still getting arrested and we still have some MDC political detainees,
so what can you say about that?
Nkomo: Well Violet, it's
unfortunate, really unfortunate, but what you have said is actually
in my view correct. Those are hygiene issues that we need to resolve
as a country. As you will appreciate, the Global Political Agreement
provides for certain things to be done by Zimbabwe and some of them
are still outstanding issues - the issues of governors, the issues
of permanent secretaries, the issues of ambassadors, the issues
of the rule of law, the issues of farm invasions.
And when we talk to our
colleagues in Zanu-PF about farm invasions they say there are no
farm invasions and we keep on saying to them that the perception
out there is that there are farm invasions and we need to correct
that perception. It is held rightly or wrongly and we have a problem
and until we resolve that problem we will get this problem of the
international community saying 'look guys put your house in
order'. I don't blame them for that and we on our part
are doing our best to try and get our colleagues to appreciate the
problem we have - that if we don't get this thing right, people
out there will say we are not serious and will not be able to help
So we have to get this
thing right. I do think myself that the MDC itself must put its
foot down and say look this is an agreement, we must follow the
agreement to the spirit and the letter of the agreement. I think
that until that happens we could be playing games. I totally agree
with you, we need to resolve those things, they exist and we need
to get them right.
Gonda: When you say in
your view you think that the MDC should put its foot down what is
it that the MDC can actually do to force change?
Nkomo: Well I think we
have guarantors; we've got South Africa as a guarantor, we
have SADC as a guarantor, we're told we've got the African
Union as a guarantor - we must not just go along when these things
are happening. We should actually tell the world that we've
failed. Once we've failed to get them to see sense - to get
them to do the things that are outstanding, stop farm invasions,
stop arresting MDC activists, release those that are political prisoners,
I believe that the MDC should say 'ah ah, we must get these things
fixed to move forward and get the SADC involved' and I think
get the African Union involved.
I think until we do that
they will think or just believe that because we are already in government
therefore everything is alright. I think we should actually say
everything will be alright only when we comply with what the Global
Political Agreement requires us to do.
Gonda: So why isn't
the MDC doing that because it appears that when we do hear the political
leaders making statements, they're calling for the removal
of sanctions and they're asking for money but we are not hearing
what you are saying - that the MDC should put pressure on the regional
leaders to intervene in these matters?
Nkomo: Well I should
say that our Prime Minister and leader of the party was bereaved
earlier this month and that tended to put our programme of action
because as you know that these things are talked at the leaders
or principals meetings. So he's coming back on the 1 ST of
April and we believe that once he's back, this agenda will
move forward. That's what we believe will happen. Again, the
leadership and ourselves have been trying, while the Prime Minister
was on compassionate leave, to talk to President Mugabe and our
other partners and I think that in my view, we were not successful.
I think they were hiding behind a finger but I believe that once
the Prime Minister is back this thing will actually be addressed
Gonda: And of course
there's this issue of Roy Bennett. We understand that at a
Cabinet caucus last Monday, Mugabe categorically said that he would
not swear in Roy Bennett as the MDC 's Deputy Minister of
Agriculture. What can you say about this?
Nkomo: I do believe that
is totally wrong. You know the agreement clearly says President
Tsvangirai will actually appoint his own ministers and deputy ministers
and Mugabe's job, President Mugabe's job is merely formally
to do that. And so Roy Bennett was seconded by us to be Deputy Minister
of Agriculture and Mugabe's job is to formalise that and I
understand that the President is saying that Bennett has got allegations,
serious allegations against him.
My view is that whether
the allegations are serious or not so serious is not the issue.
Bennett even if he is currently appearing in the Courts, our law
presumes an individual innocent until proven guilty and so we cannot
condemn him until the Courts actually say he is condemned. But meantime
I think that it will be wrong for Mugabe to refuse. We will not
agree, we will not accept it. Bennett is our man, Bennett is our
man and he will have to be sworn in whether Mugabe likes it or not.
It doesn't matter whether Mugabe likes it or not but he will
have to swear him in.
Gonda: So Mugabe actually
said this in front of the MDC officials that it's because
he is facing serious charges?
Nkomo: No we were told
by the Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara who actually attends
the meetings with the President that that is what he said but as
you know, the President doesn't address MDC caucuses because
he's not a member of the MDC , so that is what we were told
that's what he said. We totally disagree, that's totally
inappropriate, he cannot decide for us who becomes what, as much
as we cannot decide for him who becomes minister from his political
party. So for us we will not accept this. Bennett is our man and
we will have him as Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
Gonda: You were CEO of
the Daily News, the banned Daily News. Will the newspaper be resuscitated
now that there's a new government?
Nkomo: Well I wouldn't
know, I've been trying to speak to those, because as you know
Strive Masiyiwa withdrew from ownership of that and transferred
ownership of the Daily News to a Trust that he created. The Chairperson
of that Trust is Professor Norman Nyazema and it's now perhaps
up to him to see whether the Daily News will be resuscitated. But
I can say that from my knowledge as a former CEO of the Daily News
it will require a lot of capital injection to start that newspaper
because all the computers that we had were taken by, were confiscated
by government and they were taken to Chikurubi Prison where they
were kept in a big cell and so it would require a lot of capital
injection and so it will not be that easy but it can be done - if
they do find somebody with the capital to do it. It would be nice
if it could be done.
Gonda: OK, and a final
word Mr Nkomo?
Nkomo: Well Violet I
can say to you that the MDC is determined to make it work. Our focus
is actually not on what is happening now but our focus is on the
writing of a new constitution, the referendum, the holding of new,
fresh, free and fair elections after the referendum. That's
where our focus is. We are determined that we must make this work
for the sake of our people in Zimbabwe, we'll make this inclusive
government work so that we are able to write the constitution, a
Gonda: Mr Sam Sipepa
Nkomo, thank you very much.
Nkomo: You are very welcome
Violet. Have a good night.
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