MAGUNJE — The Zimbabwean government mooted the concept of growth points in the 1980s as a means of decongesting cities and towns.
This was done mainly to curb the rural-to-urban migration through employment creation and the availing of basic services to people in rural areas, but almost three decades later, most growth points are now like ghost towns with most businesses still kicking being beer outlets.
Most growth points have failed to attract meaningful investment except Grain Marketing Board and a few government departments.
Beer halls have crowded most centres. People who spoke to NewsDay at Magunje Growth Point felt government should do more to resuscitate its original aspirations.
“There is no real development that has occurred here. The government promised to bring investment and create jobs for our youths, but over the years nothing has happened and our youths continue to rely heavily on farming as a form of employment,” said 63-year-old Taona Chimusimbe.
Companies which used to operate at some growth points have since closed or relocated citing viability challenges.
Enock Hunzvi — who used to run abattoirs at several growth points in the country — said the main reason he relocated was financial constraints which were hampering his activities and the government’s insincerity to help people who brought investment and employment creation to the marginalised areas.
“I used to employ more than 100 people at my abattoirs and since there was no huge market for meat in the rural areas, I had to supply the meat to urban butcheries, but the hustles of transporting meat were just too much.
I had to get cleared by relevant authorities and during the country’s economic meltdown, getting fuel was also a challenge,” said Hunzvi.
Rural farmers said they felt their produce should provide employment in their areas rather than be transported for processing in urban centres.
Rural councillor Bigboy Marumahoko said the government should bring processing industry to rural areas so school leavers would have something to do.
“Most growth points have acres of space which can be developed into industries. The areas lie dormant without any meaningful development. A few growth points like Mutoko and Gokwe Centre have managed to develop, but others have failed to do so.
“Food processing companies like Blue Ribbon and National Foods should decentralise so they come closer to where they get their raw materials and in doing that, they will at least give back to the community through creating employment.
“Cotton ginneries should also relocate to cotton growing areas so rural people could adequately benefit from their crops. This year, tobacco farmers were stranded in Harare with no roof over their heads for many days and others have to travel 400 kilometres to the capital.
All these challenges can be averted if the government and relevant stakeholders open tobacco auction floors in rural areas,” said Marumahoko.
Some youths in Magunje said given the chance to be employed into their rural areas they would not go in urban centres searching for jobs.
“Most school leavers have nothing to do here and end up going to Karoi or Harare in search of employment, but if we had industries here, there would be no reason to migrate,” said 23-year-old Abel Chinomona.
Economic analyst Floyd Kadete said the country’s growth points have seen negative growth because of economic challenges that prevailed in the country during yesteryears and projected it would take many years for the government to resuscitate growth points.
“Even the industries in major towns like Harare are operating below their capacity, notable towns like Bulawayo and Gweru have been hit by massive relocation or industries have simply closed.
So in a country where industries in big towns are collapsing what do you expect of growth points? The trend will continue for now until the government comes out with robust strategic plans to develop the marginalised areas,” said Kadete.
A development officer who requested anonymity said the transport network was one of the biggest letdown by the government and had contributed immensely to the demise of growth points.
“Centres with well-serviced roads like Mutoko Centre have fared relatively well, but most growth points have poor road network and investors are difficult to woo. The relevant authority should put conditions that can attract businesses to operate in rural areas,” said the development officer.
Kadete added that if growth points were developed rather being left idle, the benefits would be many.
“This policy of selecting areas in the rural areas for development was and is still a noble idea and if properly managed it would have positive results.
Right now urban centres are facing a plethora of problems ranging from population explosion, high unemployment, crowding, to many social ills. Developing rural centres can be one way of solving the problem,” said Kadete.