FORMER water resources minister, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo has lamented the missed opportunity during his tenure to relocate the now displaced Tokwe-Mukosi villagers from their floods-prone homes to safer land not so distant from the commercially viable man-made dam.
Nkomo, in an exclusive interview with NewZimbabwe.com this week, went on to accuse Zanu PF politicians of risking the lives of the affected villagers by deliberately delaying their relocation for the ruling party’s own selfish political ends.
Incessant rainfall in Masvingo province early February caused by the partial collapse of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam wall leading to heavy flooding that swept away homes and crops belonging to over 2000 families that were living in the dam basin.
The disaster prompted the relocation of the villagers to the tsetse-fly infested Chingwizi and Kushinga transit camps where they await to be allocated permanent land to rebuild their homes by government.
But Nkomo, now MDC-T Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land and Water Development, felt the idea of detaching the villagers completely from the life changing resource was ill advised.
The MDC-T legislator said he had in fact, laid out an ambitious plan during his tenure to transfer the villagers to safer land where they were going to get commercial value out of their sacrifice.
“The plan was that if they (villagers) were going to be moved, they were going to be put in areas where the water would be flowing so that they would benefit,” Nkomo said.
“We wanted them to benefit from sugarcane farming because there was going to be a lot of farming along the dam, and contract farming was also going to be initiated and promoted for their benefit.
“In short, we had planned to take the people to places where they would benefit directly from the water.”
The Tokwe-Mukosi dam project promises huge commercial benefits which could carry on its back, irrigation schemes, fisheries, boat cruises, adjacent parks and hydro power generation, among some potential businesses.
Nkomo said selfish political interests by Zanu PF hawks contributed immensely to the February disaster.
“Usually what happens when you plan for the construction of a dam is that there are relocations, and what could have happened was that the people could have been moved well before,” he said.
“But during that time those people (flooding victims) were voters of somebody. They were in a particular constituency and if they were removed from that constituency, they were going to vote for another person in the constituency they would have been moved to.
“So there was a squabble between the politicians and the then provincial governor over the relocations of the people before the elections.”