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Monday 31 March 2014

Construction of Kazungula Bridge to start in July

Construction of the US$190 million (P1.7 billion) Kazungula Bridge will commence in July, a joint statement by signed by the Botswana Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefhi and his Zambian counterpart Yamfwa Mukanga states.

The two ministers noted that a lot of progress has been made in the procurement process for the contracts. “Out of the 26 companies that expressed interest to participate in the project, three have been shortlisted to bid for the project. It is expected that construction of the Kazungula Bridge will commence on July 12, 2014,” reads the statement. The evaluation of the technical proposals was completed last December.

The civil works for the proposed Kazungula Bridge and the railway line will comprise the construction of a 23 metres long by 18.5 metres wide rail/road bridge.

It will also include two one-stop border facilities, access roads and ramps across the Zambezi River. Speaking at the briefing, Mr Mukanga said the bridge is of strategic importance to the economic integration of the two countries and southern Africa.

He said the bridge will provide the much-needed connectivity and also link regional ports which handle exports and imports through Botswana and Zambia.

“The construction of Kazungula Bridge will address the challenges imposed by the existing ferry service, which is a major bottleneck to trade and smooth flow of people, goods and services,” he said.

Source: Construction of Kazungula Bridge to start in July, Mmegi online (31/03/14)
Construction of Kazungula bridge starts in July, Zambia Daily Mail (26/03/14)

Confusion over Old Bulawayo

Confusion reigns over the redevelopment of the Old Bulawayo Cultural Village with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) and royal Khumalo family giving conflicting statements over the project.

Old Bulawayo was established by King Lobengula as his capital in 1870 after the death of his father King Mzilikazi in 1868. It was abandoned in 1881 due to colonial threats to his political power. In 1990, NMMZ identified the site as a suitable educational and tourist centre and through consultations with the Khumalo family it was reconstructed in 1998 as a theme park. Structures such as a wagon shed, the outer palisade, King Lobengula's palace, eight beehive huts and cattle kraal, as well as a nearby interpretive centre were constructed.

The historic site was, however, destroyed on 24 August 2010, by a fire that started five kilometres from the village. Efforts to reconstruct it have stalled with the NMMZ saying it required $50 000 to complete the project.

In an interview with Sunday News recently, NMMZ executive director, Dr Godfrey Mahachi reiterated that while they wanted to reconstruct the project, funding was a problem with no one coming forward to assist the organisation. "We have made it clear that we require $50 000 for us to reconstruct that village. We realised that we cannot rely on Government funding because they themselves are facing a liquidity crisis. While they can promise us that figure in the national budget this will only be based on the availability of these funds.

"This is the reason that we decided to take the route of trying to attract well-wishers to chip in and assist us reconstruct this village. We are mainly targeting the Matabeleland community and those people that have a direct interest in this village but unfortunately till now we have got nothing," said Dr Mahachi.

"We want at least $10 000 for us to have somewhere to start on. We cannot use our $5 000 because we will do something that is not significant. So with $10 000 I believe we can build some structures that could encourage more donors to come aboard," he said.

However, a representative of the Khumalo family, Prince Peter Zwide kaLanga Khumalo criticised the NMMZ for sidelining them and not being sincere about moves to reconstruct the site. He revealed that as the cultural custodians of the village, they were not informed about the burning down of the village and further refuted claims that anyone from Government or the NMMZ had approached them to raise funds for its reconstruction.

Source: Confusion over Old Bulawayo (Bulawayo24, 30/03/14)

Monday 24 March 2014

More mining madness?

Map showing the China Africa Sunlight Energy mining concession. (Halfway House, on the main Victoria Falls-Bulawayo road, is located roughly in the centre of the map).

Concerns are being raised over the activities of mining company China Africa Sunlight Energy in the wildlife rich Gwayi Conservancy, bordering Hwange National Park, in Matabeleland North province. The company is accused of leaving a behind trail of environmental destruction.

China Africa Sunlight Energy, a 50/50 joint venture between Zimbabwe’s Old Stone Investments and Shandong Taishan Sunlight of China, plans to spend $2.1 billion in the next five years on power generation, coal mining and methane bed gas extraction in Matabeleland north.

The firm is one of the 20 companies controversially issued with special grants to explore and extract coal-bed methane gas in the area and has already completed an initial Environmental Impact Assessment.

China Africa Sunlight Energy says it will complete its coal mine and a 300 megawatt power station at its Gwayi concessions by 2016. The company’s deputy general manager Charles Mugari said as part of the first phase of the project the company will build a modern residential complex for 2,000 workers, a coal mine and power plant. “By 2016 we hope that the mine will be up and running,” he said.

He said second phase of the power project will focus on methane gas extraction and another 300MW plant to be completed in mid-2017. The company intends to establish another 400MW plant powered by methane gas. “We have embarked on a very comprehensive exploration process and by end of this year we will know exactly the minable reserves of methane gas,” he said.

Mugari said the projects, which would be carried out on 100,000 hectares of land would create 4,500 jobs in the next two years. The company is also planning to build hotels and business complexes. “This is going to be the beginning of the creation of an economic zone which will attract more foreign direct investment,” he said.

China Africa will also establish a coking plant for coal required in processing of steel.

“We have also completed our environment impact assessment for the mine and right now we are working on the EIA for the power generation and the documents are with the Environment Management Agency,” he said. The company is also working with the water ministry to assist in the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani dam which it seeks to benefit from.

Recently another company, Shangani Energy Exploration (SEE), said it has plans for $780 million gas project and build a 400 megawatt power station in the same area.

According to the Hwange/Gwayi Conservation and Tourism Association (HGCTA) and Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area, the Chinese's exploring activities have caused water aquifer bursts and massive pollution of rivers in the area. "Before the commencement of the actual mining, the exploration process has already caused serious environmental damages. As I speak water is oozing from the ground at eight aquifers which have exploded because of drillings. The most affected are Chimwara and Good Luck farms," said Langton Masunda the chairperson of HGCTA who is also a safari operator in the conservancy in an interview with New

Mark Russell, the chairman of Gwayi-ICA, said his association and other stakeholders were side-lined from the assessment process. "We are actually shocked that EMA gave this project a thumps up without our input. Gwayi ICA is the custodian of the land but surprisingly our members who have been affected by the exploration activities were ignored," said Russell.

Masunda said the area which the company wants to mine is a buffer zone for Hwange National Park and any mining activity would also have drastic effects on wildlife farming in the area. "After a proper analysis, we have established that there is greater value in preserving the area as it is rather than allocating it for coal mining activities," said Masunda.

China Africa Sunlight Energy managing director, Retired Colonel Charles Mugari dismissed the concerns insisting the mining project would bring foreign direct investment of $2,1 billion in four years and create up to 4,500 jobs. "This project will bring national benefits such as power generation, chemical and brick moulding plants. Only people who are not doing anything on their farms are most vocal about in opposing this project," said Mugari.

Sources: Chinese firm wreaks havoc in Gwayi, New Zimbabwe (20/03/14)
China Africa develops mine, 300MW power plant, New Zimbabwe (15/03/14)

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Concerns over Kariba (updated)

Following headlines in national media over the last couple of days the Zambezi River Authority have issued a short statement: “We would like to inform the public that the comments in the Newsday article of March 20, 2014, 'Kariba Dam wall faces collapse,' were made during a roundtable discussion with co-operating partners. Scenarios were presented on what could happen should rehabilitation works not be taken up with urgency. Please, DO NOT BE ALARMED. Measures are underway to start the rehabilitation process in the third quarter of the year. The meeting at which these issues were presented was to raise funds for the works to start around September. We are putting up a full statement shortly."
Headlines earlier this week in Zimbabwe claimed the lives of 3.5 million people were at risk following the revelation that Kariba Dam is in need of yet more urgent repairs.
According to reports the wall of Kariba Dam has developed problems and may collapse if repair is not carried out in the next three years. Felix Nkulukusa, chairperson of an inter-governmental committee mobilising funds for the dam's repair, is quoted as saying "The engineers said if nothing is done in the next three years, the dam may be swept away. An unstable foundation can wash away the dam - a potential catastrophe for the 3.5 million people along the Zambezi River mainly in Mozambique and Malawi," he said.
About US$250 million is required to repair the dam situated in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi River basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Union have agreed in principle to fund the repair.
The dam wall was built between 1955 and 1959 and holds back some 64,800 Mm3 of water in the reservoir. The integrity of the dam wall is checked each working day by a team of experts.
Sources: Three million at risk as Kariba Dam wall faces collapse (New Zimbabwe, 19/03/14)
Kariba dam on verge of collapsing (Bulawayo24, 19/03/14)

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Elephants Know How Dangerous We Are From How We Speak

Research from Amboseli (Kenya) show that elephants can recognise different human dialects. From National Geographic.
When an elephant killed a Maasai woman collecting firewood near Kenya's Amboseli National Park in 2007, a group of young Maasai men retaliated by spearing one of the animals.
"It wasn't the one that had killed the woman, says Graeme Shannon, a behavioral ecologist at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins. "It was just the first elephant they encountered—a young bull on the edge of a swamp."
The Maasai spiked him with spears and, their anger spent, returned home. Later, the animal died from his wounds.
Elephants experience those kinds of killings sporadically. Yet the attacks happen often enough that the tuskers have learned that the Maasai—and Maasai men in particular—are dangerous.
The elephants in the Amboseli region are so aware of this that they can even distinguish between Ma, the language of the Maasai, and other languages, says a team of researchers, who report their findings today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Read full article here - Elephants Know How Dangerous We Are From How We Speak.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Chief Mvuthu passes

Chief Mvuthu of Monde area, Hwange West District, has died aged 53.

Hwange District Administrator Tapera Mugoriya said Chief Mvuthu, born Nyangayezizwe Mlotshwa, died at Hwange Colliery Hospital on Monday night. “Chief Mvuthu had not been feeling well for some time and he passed on this Monday around 10:45PM at Hwange Colliery Hospital,” he said.

Chief Mvuthu was born on October 10, 1961. He worked at Hwange Colliery Company until his ascendance to the position of chief on June 7, 2008, taking over from his late father, Abednico Mlotshwa. Chief Mvuthu was officially installed in the same year on September 27.

At the time of his death, he was the chairperson of the Hwange Community Share Ownership Scheme.

Chief Shana of Jambezi described the death of Chief Mvuthu as a sad loss not only to his family but to Hwange District as a whole. He said Chief Mvuthu had distinguished himself as a leader on issues to do with wildlife conservation and tourism.

Source: Chief Mvuthu dies, The Chronicle (12/03/14)
Chief Mvuthu burial today (15/03/14)

Powerlines divide animal populations through UV emissions

Wild animals see overhead electrical powerlines as disturbing lines of flashing lights, which could explain why many species avoid electricity pylons to the point where their natural territories become seriously fragmented, scientists have discovered.
A study of wild reindeer in Norway has shown that they can see overhead power lines in the dark because their eyes are sensitive to the flashes of ultraviolet light which are invisible to the human eye but are constantly being emitted by high-voltage electrical transmission, the researchers said.
Many other species, from birds in the Arctic to elephants in Africa, can also see ultraviolet radiation which may explain why different kinds of animals in widely varying habitats all tend to avoid overhead power lines even though they are considered to be inert and invisible to wildlife, they said.
“Reindeer see deep into the UV range because the Arctic is especially rich in UV light. Insulators on power lines give off flashes of UV light,” Professor Jeffery said. “The animals potentially see not just a few flashes but a line of flashes extending right across the horizon. This is the first bit of evidence that explains why we think they are avoiding power lines,” he said.
Scientists have known that many animals avoid power lines to the point that it sometimes causes their populations to fragment into separate habitats. But until now the observation could not be easily explained, especially as the avoidance goes on for many decades after the power lines were first erected.
Source: Powerlines disturb animal habitats by appearing as disturbing flashes of UV light invisible to the human eye The Indepedent (12/03/14)

Thursday 6 March 2014

Vic Falls Council debt worsens

VICTORIA FALLS — The Victoria Falls Town Council says domestic debt has ballooned to $5,8 million as companies and residents continue to default on paying rates, threatening service delivery in the country’s prime resort town, an official said on Monday.
Municipalities across the country have experienced serious cash problems following a government edict last year to scrap debts owed by households.
The economic slowdown has also impacted on firms and households’ capacity to pay council charges.
The town council cancelled debts of $3,6 million in May last year in line with the decree, but defaults have increased.
“The $5,8 million is after the write off. A lot of people don’t want to pay and that is affecting on service delivery,” acting town clerk Philip Ndlovu said.
As a result, the council has engaged the services of debt collectors to recover the money, he said.
“We have held roadshows. Councillors have been meeting the residents to try and persuade them to at least settle their accounts.
“We are also engaging the services of debt collectors but we did not want to take that route.”
On the other hand, Ndlovu said council owed its creditors $4,1 million, the bulk of which was to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), and that the town facing the risk of disconnection.
“We owe Zesa and Zinwa. Zesa is for electricity for water purification and street lights mainly.
“The Zinwa bill carried over from 2009 and we are still fighting to settle it,” he said.
Cities such as Bulawayo and Harare have also struggled to cope after they were forced to write off debts by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.
Last month, the Kwekwe City Council, which is saddled with a $12 million debt, said it faced a total service delivery shutdown as heavy industries based in the city and residents continued to default on rate payments.
Mayor Matenda Madzoke said his council could soon fail to offer basic services delivery.
The council is owed $18,4 million mainly by Ziscosteel, now NewZim Steel, ($12 million), ferrochrome producer Zimasco ($161,327), Lancashire Steel ($217 619) and Tor Steel ($151 512), among others.
In turn, the council’s debts stood at $12 601 112 as at December 31 last year, according to documents released by the council finance committee.
The municipality also has a power bill of $7 million, accumulated from 2009.
Other creditors are workers who are owed $3 418 536 in salary arrears and Zimra, which is owed $254 833 in unremitted income tax.
Source: Victoria Falls debt worsens (05/03/14)

Saturday 1 March 2014

Batoka Dam won't affect Victoria Falls

ZAMBEZI River Authority says the Batoka Dam height will be limited not to affect the Victoria Falls owing to Kariba North Bank and Victoria Falls power stations' existence.
And Zambezi River Authority chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa says the Batoka Gorge Dam will create employment for about 3,000 to 5,000 Zambians and Zimbabweans, and would require four million cubic meters of concrete, compared to the Kariba Dam which consumed one million cubic meters.
Speaking when Zimbabwe's energy and power development minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, Attorney General Johannes Tomanda and energy permanent secretary Patson Mbiriri toured the Batoka Gorge Dam site on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River, Zambezi River Authority senior manager for projects and dam safety Sithembikosi Mhlanga said the dam's water throw-back would not get to the Victoria Falls.
"The Batoka Dam height will be limited with the existence of the Kariba North Bank Power Station and the Vic Falls Power Station so as not to drown the Victoria Falls," said Mhlanga.
And Munodawafa added that if the dam was going to be built at the height over 220 meters, the throw-back would go beyond the Victoria Falls.
"The throw-back will just get a few kilometres from where we have the Victoria Falls Hotel. So, this is going to be a very technical issue which our designers will have to ensure that we don't mess with," Munodawafa said.
He said a ground-breaking ceremony by the two heads of states would possibly be set for August next year. "The Batoka Gorge Dam will employ more than 300 general workers and semi-skilled people to be employed in Zimbabwe and Zambia. But we are looking at all the ash at Wange Collieries, all that ash ...will be needed as aggregate for the concrete as well as cement, that means both Zambia and Zimbabwe will have to work overdrive. Four million cubic metres of concrete compared to Kariba which consumed 1 million cubic will be needed," he said.
And project manager, Ezekiel Kasaro, said the project would generate a lot of development in the two areas. He said by impounding the valley, the dam would generate another source of extra fish to be bread in the lake. "So, we need the two governments to support this development... and as targeted, we hope by 2018 and 2020 we have the first machines running," said Kasaro.
Source: Batoka Dam won't affect Victoria Falls - The Post, Zambia (28-02-14)