Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
MATABELELAND North is poised for major economic transformation with President Mnangagwa expected to visit Hwange where he will officially open South Mining New Coking Project and tour other coal mining companies on Thursday and Friday.

The President will visit Zimbabwe ZhongXin Coking Company (ZZCC), Afrochine’s associate Dinson Colliery, Jinan Coking Coal Project and South Mining Coking Coal Project.

On Thursday, he will get a briefing on the coal and hydrocarbons sector overview at Western Areas before the tour and ground-breaking ceremony. After the tour, President Mnangagwa will officially launch the South Mining New Coking Project after which he will visit JinAn/Tutu Coking Coal Project and Hwange Colliery Company’s Chaba Mine.

On Friday, the President will tour Dinson Colliery, ZZCC Coke Plant, Zambezi Coal and Gas Mine and Makomo Resources. He will wrap up his visit by touring the US$10 million 300MW Zimbabwe ZhongXin Electric Energy (ZZEE) power plant where a signing ceremony will be conducted.

Once complete, the ZZCC coal-driven power station on the outskirts of Hwange, will contribute 300MW into the national grid. The project is being done in phases of 50MW with the first phase to be completed in October 2020.

On completion the power plant will consume 300 000 tonnes of coal annually and ZZCC has applied to Government for a Coal Special Grant (CSG) in order to enjoy economies of scale once the firm starts producing coal to support its operations.

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo yesterday confirmed President Mnangagwa’s visit.

“The President will be in Hwange on Thursday and Friday to tour colliery mines and the district. His visit will obviously activate us to do more in terms of speeding up the implementation of developmental projects and spur economic growth in our province,” he said.

Minister Moyo yesterday met traditional chiefs in the province and updated them on progress of several developmental projects being undertaken by Government to uplift lives of the local communities.

Some of the notable projects include the Gwayi-Shangani Dam project, the construction of Lupane Provincial Hospital and Elitsheni Government Complex, rehabilitation of roads linking Bulawayo with Nkayi, Tsholotsho and Victoria Falls and the expansion project at Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8.

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 450MW the old power station is able to generate.

Upon completion the project, which was launched by President Mnangagwa two years ago, is expected to add 600MW into the national grid by 2022.

The scheme is one Zimbabwe’s power projects financed under a loan facility from China Export Import Bank. State power utility Zesa Holdings, through its generation arm, is implementing the project.

Minister Moyo said although the projects were stalled by Covid-19, Government was committed to completing them without further delay.

“The Gwayi-Shangani Dam project has been progressing well before it was stalled by the national lockdown due to Covid-19. However, there has been tremendous progress with eight metres of the dam wall have been constructed including grouting of all areas covered by concrete,” he said.

“The dam apron has been completed and material is onsite. We remain grateful to Government for its commitment to the completion of the project with Treasury having released an additional $200 million.”

Minister Moyo said a 10km stretch on the Bulawayo-Nkayi road has been widened. He, however, said the major setback on the project was that part of the prime road surface has been damaged by motorists.

“We have finished rehabilitating a 2,2 km Gwayi stretch on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road and it is now open to traffic. The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement is working with Arda and has identified an investor to expand Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme to 15 000 hectares since we have abundant water from Zambezi River,” he said.

Elitsheni Government Complex in Lupane is almost complete with a few outstanding works in terms of electricity connections.

Minister Moyo said Government has so far disbursed more than $52 million devolution funds to 10 local authorities in the province between last year and the first quarter of this year.

Government, through the Department of Social Welfare, is also targeting to assist 71 464 households in the province in terms of food security, including 51 880 vulnerable households under the drought mitigation programme.

“Government remains seized with the need to ensure food security especially against a backdrop of a poor 2019/20 agriculture season. To this end, a total of 1 570 able bodied vulnerable households are under the food-for-work programme and they are receiving a total of 78, 5 tonnes of maize per month,” said Minister Moyo.

“To complement Government programming in the Food Security Cluster, World Food Programme has targeted 19 584 beneficiaries in Binga, Bubi, Hwange, Nkayi and Tsholotsho districts.”

Minister Moyo said Matabeleland North continues to record an influx of investors in the mining sector with Hwange district accounting for the majority of investments.

“We have four coke and battery companies which are South Mining Expansion Project, Tutu Investments, Dinson Colliery, a subsidiary of Afrochine and ZZCC which has a thermal power station project in Bubi. Bubi Gold Centre is one project which has the potential to help boost our provincial economy,” he said.

The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in conjunction with the Finance and Economic Development ministry is looking for investors to fully capacitate Bubi Gold Centre.

Under the Winter Wheat Programme, farmers in Matabeleland North planted 489 hectares against a targeted 500 hectares with an expected harvest of 3 423 tonnes of wheat.

“Government is slowly opening up the economy from the lockdown, Victoria Falls tourism sector has started partial reopening after 100 days of inactivity. However, strict adherence to Covid-19 Containment and Prevention measures has to be enforced,” said Minister Moyo. — @mashnets.