2,000 families still to be evacuated from Tokwe dam

SW Radio Africa - By Tichaona Sibanda

13 February 2014


The Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, Masvingo Province

Over 2,000 families still need urgent assistance to be evacuated from the flood basin of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam, the head of the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) said on Thursday.

CPU director Madzudzo Pawadyira told SW Radio Africa the situation, triggered by a breach in the dam wall last weekend, was still very serious and it was therefore critical to evacuate everyone downstream of the dam.

‘I’m currently preparing a report on the situation in the area, but my major concern now is the evacuation of over 2,000 families,’ said Pawadyira, brushing off suggestions the evacuation exercise was no longer as urgent, amid reports engineers are now confident the dam will not be breached.

‘I can never be confident with that, and I’m also not confident discussing whether or not the dam will burst,’ the CPU boss added.

Weeks of heavy rains in Masvingo’s Chivi district created flooding that breached the Tokwe-Mukosi dam and forced the government to declare it a disaster area. The dam wall has developed cracks due to rising water levels over the past few weeks and due to the fact that the project was still not completed, due to lack of financing from the government.

Engineers said until the construction of the dam is complete, the dam should only hold 460,000 cubic litres, but it’s currently holding double that amount.

The dam is being built where the Tokwe and Mukosi rivers meet.

Admire Mashenjere, a field officer with the Tokwe-Mukosi Rehabilitation and Resettlement Trust, which represents families affected by the dam and advocates for their rights, said damage to the dam has not been repaired yet.

Mashenjere, who visited the site on Wednesday and spoke to the Italian engineers, said repairs to the damaged structure will only commence when they have finished drilling channels to release pressure on the dam wall.

‘The channels will allow the flood waters to funnel out of the dam quickly enough for the engineers to repair the breached areas. One engineer warned that it would be dangerous to start work on the damaged structure because any movement there, or additional materials on the wall, will put more pressure and increase chances of a major breach,’ said Mashenjere.

Meanwhile environment and water Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has dissolved the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) board, which was chaired by Beauty Basile. It is expected the new board will be appointed in a fortnight.

Kasukuwere told Parliament on Wednesday that his ministry will appoint a board of technically competent people, including engineers, to make sure repair work is done on Tokwe-Mukosi dam.

He has appointed a five- member team of independent dam engineers who left for Tokwe-Mukosi on Thursday to carry out an independent assessment of the situation and report back to him.

This is almost two weeks after the dam breach and five days after government declared it disaster area, leaving observers wondering what the minister was doing while the drama was unfolding in Masvingo and putting the lives of over 60,000 people in grave danger.