The Kasese housing project in Kariba is set to resume after Government intervened to break the impasse between the municipal council and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
The project, in the pipeline since 2003, had been stopped by EMA last week, citing the absence of an environmental impact assessment. Some sticking points that have prevent the project from going ahead in the past include the claim by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (that the area fell within the red zone for the Kariba Airport.
A second problem relates to whether the council owned all the land involved as there was a boundary dispute between Kariba Municipality and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, now resolved after the Surveyor General found the land in the council area. The matter had been taken to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the municipality before ZimParks appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that they needed the opinion of the surveyor-general on just where the boundary lies.
But a team from the Surveyor-General's office surveyed the area recently and identified the boundaries, laying the matter to rest.
Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mary Mliswa-Chikoka waded into the matter and engaged all the concerned parties during her recent tour of devolution projects in Kariba.
Kariba Municipality acting town clerk Mr Godfrey Magijani told the meeting that the project, which was recently taken over by Government, had stalled over the issue of the impact assessment. But the bulk of the required documentation was now with the EMA and the municipality had resolved its dispute with ZimParks. It also emerged that Government through CAAZ had plans to relocate the airport to another area, meaning the project would not fall in a red zone.
EMA provincial manager Mr Rambwayi Mapako said once the issues were ironed out, the project could be given a waiver and continue while the paperwork was being sorted out. Once all the sticking points are cleared, we do not see any reason why the project cannot proceed while the paperwork is being put in place because the issue of the airport red zone and boundary dispute between ZimParks and Kariba Municipality were the only objections raised, said Mr Mapako.
Minister Mliswa-Chikoka said technical issues should be solved fast so that the national project proceeds and allow beneficiaries to start building. This is a national project which should move fast to impact our people who have been waiting for a long time to build, she said. The project started in 2003 under Pinnacle Holdings before the municipality took over, forming a consortium which failed again.
A deal with the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe was reached with the bank raising US$14 million for the project.
Cost variations caused by monetary policy changes led to the deal collapsing before Government came in to rescue the situation.
This was after indications that at least 390 families needed to be relocated from Mahombekombe where they are living under a 330kVA main grid powerline.