By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Bhagani village in Bulilima constituency, Matabeleland South, is an area teeming with beautiful brick and mortar homesteads.
While there are grass-thatched huts, as in other rural settings, many of homesteads in the ward 21 area have tiled or corrugated roofing.
But behind the beautiful homesteads, is a village that is hurting. A village that feels central government has neglected and marginalised it since independence.
Villagers also say the colonial government neglected them.
It is a village that describes itself as “Zimbabwe’s orphans”, with some of the villagers seeing Botswana and South Africa, as the only countries that can accommodate them.
Some of the villagers have never even set foot in Bulawayo, about 130 kilometres away.
Headman Gibson Mguni, born in 1922, said they had long given up on pleading with central government to attend to the basic social amenities needs like schools and boreholes, among others.
Mguni said Bhagani, under Chief Mphini, had since 1946 been begging the government to construct a primary or secondary school in the area, but without success.
“We have long given up. We cannot keep on begging and begging for something (primary and secondary school), which has been shown will not materialise.
“Since 1946, people have been asking to have schools constructed in the village,” he said.
Mguni said pupils and students have to walk over 5km daily to schools in neighbouring villages.
Incidentally, President Robert Mugabe at one time courted controversy when he said Kalangas are not educated.
Water, an inalienable universal right, is also a challenge. Their only supply source, Sonto Dam, has dried up.
Their cattle have to water in the neighbouring Ingwana village, about 4km away.
Villagers said even in a good rainy season, the dam dries up quickly because of siltation.
Silt accumulation reduces storage capacity and increases the proportion of water lost to evaporation.
“We have tried to engage the Zimbabwe National Water Authority before to remove silt at the dam to increase its holding capacity, but it has been promises and promises,” Learnmore Ndlovu said.
The village headman said they had since tried to pool resources together to hire construction companies to desilt Sonta Dam.
“Unfortunately, we have not raised enough money for that exercise. We have also pooled resources together to sink a borehole.
But not everyone contributed the money for the borehole because of the economic situation,” Mguni said.
“Villagers that did not contribute anything (for the borehole) are forced to walk several kilometres to fetch water. We have keys to the borehole and only those who paid are given the keys to fetch water.”
A community development activist, Divine Dube, told Southern Eye “it is really unfortunate that decades after independence, communities such as Bhagani are still marginalised”.
“The water situation in most of our communities is not a new phenomenon. Sadly, what worries us is that despite sustained engagement efforts between duty bearers and rights holders, the situation remains the same.
“It is unfortunate that our government only comes on board to commission projects, which communities have done on their own yet authorities continue to sing development that never was.
We, therefore, urge responsible authorities to initiate dialogue with affected communities and come up with lasting solutions for issues that bedevil us,” he said.
Mbuso Fuzwayo, the co-ordinator of Ibhetshu LikaZulu, a pressure group, weighed in blaming the government’s misplaced priorities “on power retention, not development”.
“It is unfortunate because this government cares less about Matabeleland. The priorities are misplaced, they spoke about building a university worth a billion named after Mugabe, and unfortunately we should first have primary schools, then secondary schools, then universities.”
Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa said expecting the government to build dams and schools in rural Matabeleland “is similar to expecting an eagle to raise ducklings”.
“The people of Matabeleland are alone and orphaned in this country and it’s time they came together and developed themselves,” he said.
“They should not expect anything from Mugabe and his government, for he has displayed beyond any doubt that he has no plans of developing the region.”
According to the Bhagani village headman, it is only recently that Education ministry officials toured the area and told villagers to mould bricks for a yet-to-be constructed school.
“We do not trust them at all. It is their duty to construct a school,” Mguni said.