Nkayi villagers reap benefits of dam construction

THE first time 48-year-old Jealous Ncube was handed a payslip, it took a mini lecture from his supervisor for him to understand terms such as gross and net salary as the father of four had never been formally employed his whole life.

Ncube, a builder by profession, had been hopping from one piece job to the other his whole adult life, eking out a living to provide for his family by taking minor construction jobs that landed his way.

When word started spreading in Nkuba village, Ward 18, in Nkayi that the construction of Ziminya Dam would begin in earnest, Ncube had no idea that he would one day be in the thick of things to make the 70-year-old dream a reality.

Situated about 20km west of Nkayi Business Centre, Ziminya Dam is now a major employer in the area with over 120 locals working at the construction site. Ncube had been working there since the beginning of the year, but he still remembers the day he got his first pay slip. He was confused by the piece of paper that his administration assistant gave him. It had many numbers and words that he did not understand, such as gross salary, net salary, tax and pay as you earn (PAYE).

He needed his supervisor to explain to him what they meant and how they affected his income. He was amazed to learn that he had to pay some money to the government as tax, but he was also happy to see that he had earned more than he ever did before. He felt proud to be part of the dam project and to contribute to the development of his community.

“My whole life I have never worked for a company so I didn’t understand why I was given a piece of paper that I later learnt is called a pay slip. My supervisor then explained that a slip is meant to explain how much I earn before deductions and now much I take home.

“I still have my first pay slip at home as a reminder no matter how difficult life can be, there is always hope that one day things will get better. I never dreamt that one day I would be employed by such a big company like Fossil Construction but here I am today working on a huge project right here in my village,” Ncube told the Saturday Chronicle.

Like the many villagers who are employed by the dam contractor, Ncube walks back home at the end of each working day to spend time with his family. Those that live further from the construction site are ferried by a company bus to and from work.

“I go back to my family at the end of the day and everyone who is employed here is grateful to the company for giving first preference to locals. I’m now able to pay school fees for my four children from my salary and I no longer have to worry about searching for piece jobs now and again to take care of my family,” added Ncube.

Ever since he was employed as a general hand in March, 25-year-old Champion Ncube has ditched the life of illegal gold panning and no longer worries about looking over his shoulders for law enforcement authorities to earn a living.

“Jobs are hard to come by here in Nkayi, which forces a lot of young people into a life of crime and engaging in illegal gold panning but that life is over for me ever since I was hired here.

“I now can take care of my parents and two young sisters from the money I earn. We were called by our headman who told us that Fossil Construction was looking able bodied youths for jobs at the dam and I passed the interview. I know a lot of the guys here on first name basis because we come from neighbouring villages and some of us went to school together,” said Champion.

Once complete Ziminya Dam is expected to transform the drought-prone district into a vibrant economic hub through water-driven value chain gains. The dam is one of the 12 high-impact dam projects being spearheaded by the Second Republic, and will use Shangani River as its catchment area.

Local communities have started feeling the positive impacts of the projects while more opportunities in tourism, fisheries and irrigation development are being unlocked.

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) engineer Alfios Katsande explained that the dam wall will be over 3km and that in the event of a spillage, the excess water will flow into nearby Shangani River.

“It’s a very big dam that will benefit of Nkayi immensely from irrigation projects, an onsite water purification plant that will supply Nkayi Business Centre with water and a 1MW electricity generating power station that will feed into the national grid.

“We have also started clearing land for the irrigation projects, which will be over 1 200 hectares when complete,” said Engineer Katsande.

According to Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager, Marjorie Munyonga the dam will be the second largest in Matabeleland North Province after the Gwayi-Shangani Dam.

Some home owners in Nkayi Business Centre, have also rented out their homes to the engineers and are earning money from rentals.

24-year-old Loveness Ndlovu dreaded the thought of migrating from Nkayi to big cities like Bulawayo and Harare in search of a job and now is one of the many youths employed at the dam site. She is a stores clerk and is responsible for accounting for the various tools that workers use every day.

Ndlovu uses the company bus every day to go to and from work.

“I never imagined that one day I would work for a construction company building a dam but I love it here. I’m learning as much as I can so that one day when the construction of Ziminya Dam is complete, I will be a valuable member of the Fossil Construction team and I can work for the company on other big projects around the country,” said Ndlovu.

The dam was pegged in 1952 but, just like other projects, there was no commitment to construct it until President Mnangagwa’s Government committed finances to push its rapid implementation.

It’s been a lifelong dream for the people of Nkayi and in particular local councillor Norman Ndebele who was part of a group of politicians that lobbied for a meeting with President Mnangagwa to request the expediting of the dam construction.

“We asked our MPs (Members of Parliament) Stars Mathe and Sithembiso Nyoni two years ago to seek audience with President Mnangagwa and ask His Excellency to look into the construction of Ziminya Dam. The President is really a listening father because here we are today Ziminya Dam is under construction.

“The construction company listened to our concerns to hire locals and I’m happy that over 100 workers at the construction site are from villages here in Nkayi,” said councillor Ndebele


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