Zim reaches major milestone with first oxygen plant

The Herald

Cletus Mushanawani and Mukudzei Chingwere

The multi-million dollar medical oxygen and industrial gas plant at Feruka in Mutare, with capacity to meet national needs as well as exporting to neighbouring countries, will be commissioned today by President Mnangagwa.

The oxygen plant will among other needs, meet the demand for hospital oxygen in intensive care units, especially by critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Wholly State-owned company Verify Engineering built the plant in a demonstration of the Second Republic’s quest to see a highly industrialised Zimbabwe using locally available resources. 

Verify Engineering operates under the Harare Institute of Technology.

Although the project was started in 2005, it stalled because of lack of resources. 

But with the onset of the Second Republic, adequate resources were channelled into this important national project resulting in its recent completion.

In an interview at Feruka yesterday, an excited Verify Engineering board chairman, Air Commodore Engineer Dr Edgar Kamusoko, said the completion of the medical energy and industrial gas plant was a demonstration that Zimbabwean engineers had the capacity to do the needed work and contribute to the industrialisation of the country.

“Verify Engineering is a wholly State-owned company meant to develop innovations and technology for the development of Zimbabwe. It is under the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry and we are contributing towards the success of the Education 5.0 policy through the component of innovation and technological development. Our sole aim is to see the industrialisation of Zimbabwe.

“The completion of this project is a clear demonstration of the capacity we have internally as Zimbabwe to develop our own economy,” said Eng Kamusoko.

“The completion of the medical oxygen plant was a big milestone as this will go a long way in scaling up the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Our health sector is in critical need of medical oxygen and we have the production capacity to meet our national requirements as well as export to neighbouring countries.” 

Besides the medical supplies the company is also providing the oxy-acetylene welding supplies, important in the fabrication industry and the only way of welding away from a good electricity supply.

To ensure that the medical oxygen reaches the hospitals and others who need it, the company had already imported 5 000 cylinders with a further 5 000 set to arrive in the country soon.

Eng Kamusoko hailed the support the company received from the Government. 

“This project was wholly funded by Government and it is manned by Zimbabwean engineers and technicians. The completion of this project also demonstrates Government’s commitment to develop its own technology and industries.

“His Excellency, President Mnangagwa is very supportive of this project in terms of making sure that it is properly funded. While our initial mandate was to produce coal, we are now immensely contributing in the fight against Covid-19, something which we could not have achieved if we did not get funding from Government,” he said. 

Verify Engineering which is under the Harare Institute of Technology is mandated to create efficient technology-based companies to feed new ideas into the economy as well as take advantage of available opportunities to develop the country. 

The company is also working on other projects that include the establishment of a coal-to-fertiliser plant and coal-to-fuel plant in Lisulu, Hwange.

The company has designed a pilot plant capable of producing 5 000 litres of fuel a day, synthesised using an iron based-catalyst. It has commissioned an air separation unit and is now constructing an acetylene plant.

Oxy-acetylene welding is common when electricity is not available for arc-welding and is critical for a great deal of metalwork done in areas not on the national grid, while being useful in other areas.

Zimbabwe has defied odds to mount a thorough and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has managed to minimise the effects of the disease on its citizenry.

The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Professor Amon Murwira, under whose purview HIT falls, recently outlined the need for Presidential support: 

“The President gives direction on what needs to be done and we teach it at our institutions. A nation is built intentionally, not by accident. Once a nation is able to implement its own programmes, you cannot stop that nation.” 

Prof Murwira said the President gave the national strategic intention, in Zimbabwe’s case achieving an upper middle income economy under Vision 2030.

Zimbabwe had been importing most of the materials needed to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic but by the end of last year, NatPharm reported that more than 70 percent of the equipment needed to respond to the virus was now being manufactured locally.

President Mnangagwa’s administration has supported the education sector by launching innovation hubs aimed at stimulating local production through innovation and bridging a gap between the classroom and the industry.

The Herald