Muzarabani oil project fires up villagers’ imagination

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Muzarabani (New Ziana) – The rains may have halted progress on the ongoing gas and oil exploration project in Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central, but it has not dampened the mood and expectations of villagers in the district.

Never has a project impacted the imagination of villagers the way the Invictus oil and gas exploration project in the Zambezi Valley has.

Invictus, the Australian firm, has been conducting preliminary tests in Muzarabani District of Mashonaland Central in preparation for drilling the first exploration well before June 2022.

In the early 1990s, Mobil undertook the first oil explorations in the Zambezi Valley – of which Muzarabani is part – and reportedly found gas, but the gas remained unexploited.

Subsequent reprocessing of the Mobil data and enlisting of the latest technology point to Muzarabani hosting significant deposits of petroleum oil and gas.

Ongoing work will, in the next few months, be expected to add clarity to the data, the upcoming drilling programme and the way forward.

Invictus, the company undertaking the exploration work, says in the meantime, it is focusing on delivering growth and fostering relationships with stakeholders and host communities.

Villagers note that Mobil’s gas and oil exploration stretching from Hurungwe and Chirundu lasted three years in the early 1990s before throwing in the towel, although concluding that there was “nearly “100 percent potential of gas and a high possibility of oil occurrence in the Zambezi Valley.

The Chairman of the Muzarabani Rural District Council (MRDC), Alderman Ashton Chiweshe, confirms that the expectations are high, adding: “We expect a drastic improvement in the fortunes and lifestyles of the people in Muzarabani first, and secondly in the whole of Mashonaland Central, as the host province of the project.

“We expect development. As we speak, right now there is engagement of locals in such things as bush clearance and security to safeguard the exploration equipment. The people involved in these processes are locals,” he explains.

In the long run, he says, the expectation is that this is going to be a “mega project”.

From the perspective of villagers in the district, the expectation is that once it takes off, there is going to be “total transformation” of the district and the project will recruit more locals required for various stages of the Invictus project.

As the project progresses and more people are recruited, accommodation will be required, he explains, and this will likely result in the growth and expansion of both Centenary and Muzarabani.

For example, he points out, there could be more banking services, and certainly more shops going up, translating into improvement and development of the district, the two centres and the whole Mashonaland Central province.

He says: “I think there will be a lot that will happen.”

Generally, there is appreciation of the way that Invictus has gone about in undertaking its work in Muzarabani because there are constant consultations and engagements with the locals, he observes, explaining that he has attended some of the Invictus activities.

A case in point is that while Muzarabani has 29 wards, Invictus is active in 11 of these, where they expect to drill boreholes, once the rainy season is over.

The attendant improvement of the road infrastructure is part of the Government’s contribution under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Project (ERRP).

Part of what informs the heightened expectations of the villagers in Muzarabani is their observation of how local businesses have responded to the ongoing exploration work. There is growing interest and enquiries for new businesses opportunities in the district and, villagers conclude the enquiries pointing to a possible boom of the district and province.

Pointing out the improved main road, villagers say this act will open up more areas and, in the process stimulate economic and social activities and development.

ErizaMariba, says a good road network, opens up access to markets for agricultural producers to move their crops, while also allowing them to purchase inputs. A good road network makes travel and movement of goods much easier.

Councillor Raphael Maruziva, who is in charge of the Social Services Committee of the Muzarabani Rural District Council, was part of the Mobil exploration workforce in the 1990s.

He believes the benefits of the Invictus project are that it will generate sizable revenue, create jobs and business opportunities, as well as bring new roads and access to water and power to rural areas.

Projects such as the one being spearheaded by Invictus have the potential to stimulate economic growth, reduce poverty, and raise living standards.

“We anticipate improvements in how the people here live. For example, during the first phase of the current exploration, people ended up getting employment.
“Some of the locals employed on the project ended up buying properties at Muzarabani Business Centre.”

He points out that among the immediate benefits of the exploration project are that boreholes will be drilled for the benefit of the villagers in both Mbire District and Muzarabani, while jobs have been created.

For village health worker, Kumbirai Ndhlovu, you would think Invictus has already confirmed as positive, the findings of the exploration. She is excitement personified, when it comes to what the project will mean for Muzarabani.

In other countries where gas and oil have been discovered these have generated employment, given a boost to local businesses, installed and maintained new infrastructure, while offering training and skills transfer to locals.

New Ziana

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