Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
MATABELELAND North Province is poised for a massive economic boom that would see the capital Lupane develop into an economic zone with state-of-the-art facilities, a minister said yesterday. Ambassador Cain Mathema told Chronicle that a number of capital projects are underway and would bring benefits in terms of employment and infrastructural development in an area that has for years lagged behind in terms of development.
They include the coal-bed methane gas project in Lupane, the $2,1 billion coal mining project by China Africa-Sunlight in Gwayi, Victoria Falls International Airport, Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a tomato processing project in Nyamandlovu, Batoka Gorge electricity project, Lupane State University and Elitsheni Government Complex.
The Chinese government funds many of these projects and this week pledged to continue funding capital projects in the country as the visiting Zimbabwean delegation which is in China led by President Mugabe concluded a number of deals.
Ambassador Mathema said China Africa Sunlight, which plans to build a 600-megawatt thermal power station in Gwayi by 2017 and produce 2.4 million tonnes of underground coal per year, would employ more than 4,000 people.
“The province is poised for economic growth which will see Lupane develop into a new economic zone with China Africa Sunlight playing a leading role. Matabeleland North projects are anchored on gas and coal mining and electricity generation and this will see a large number of people getting jobs,” he said.
The provincial minister said the company, which is a consortium of private Zimbabwean and Chinese companies had set goals on constructing shops, supermarkets and a shopping mall in the provincial capital.
Ambassador Mathema said China Africa Sunlight had offered to fund the Gwayi-Shangani Dam construction with a $63 million capital injection as it will be using water from the dam for its projects.
He implored all companies involved in the capital projects to employ locals.
“China Africa Sunlight will employ more than 4,000 people, more than 300 are employed at the airport where construction is underway while not less than 3,000 will be employed at the Lupane gas project. We have other coal mining projects going on such as Makomo Resources and we really insist that all companies operating in Matabeleland North should employ people from the province,” he said.
“We also have the Batoka Gorge and Lupane State University and that is development for Matabeleland North.”
The provincial minister said besides providing employment, road construction projects such as the widening of Bulawayo-Nkayi, Bulawayo-Tsholotsho, Lupane-Kwekwe roads which have been on the cards for many years would get funding for completion.
He said such projects would help boost tourism in the province, which is the cornerstone of the country’s tourism sector.