BEITBRIDGE Town, Zimbabwe’s gateway to the world and the region’s busiest port, was in March granted municipal status through a proclamation by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Newsday’s Beitbridge Correspondent (NC) sat down with acting Town Clerk, Loud Ramagkapola (pictured), (LR) who spoke on the development and other issues affecting the border town.
NC: What does the municipal status granted to Beitbridge mean to the ordinary resident?
LR: It means their properties will have higher value, more autonomy on land ownership and they now can easily process title deeds.
NC: How is this status going to assist in service delivery?
LR: The budget will be bigger, as property rates go up and if residents honour their rates, it means the town will have more income for service delivery. Residents are responsible for the growth of their town by paying for services and rates.
NC: Your town has a poor road network, particularly, in newly developed areas, what is your plan of action?
LR: We are slowly, but surely working on the roads through funding from Zinara (Zimbabwe National Roads Authority).
I must say the Zinara funding has really been of great help in making sections of our roads trafficable. Soon we will be buying a grader, again, courtesy of Zinara.
In new areas where servicing is underway, we have insisted on developers putting up tarred or surfaced roads and we hope that will help.
We also need to develop ring roads (bypass) towards the border, so that we do not crowd roads within the residential areas and the town and to separate local from international traffic, to and from South Africa
NC: There are several houses which do not have water and sewer reticulation, yet these people claim to have fully paid the council, what is the way forward to provide these essential services to residents?
LR: That these stand owners have all fully paid us is not completely correct.
We are struggling to get some of them to fully pay so that we complete the servicing.
Some have paid as low as $500, as initial deposit, out of the required $2 000. The irony is that some of stand owners have completed building their houses without finishing paying for services.
These amounts have been outstanding since 2011 and had all stand owners paid in full, we would have long fully serviced their area.
Council is currently working on these suburbs, slowly servicing them with very limited resources.
We urge residents to make payments and we will not disappoint them.
NC: You took over council which was saddled with a huge salary and pension debt and about $13 million in Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) arrears, how will you tackle these debts and how much are we talking about in total?
LR: The Zinwa debt makes up almost 95% of the debtors book.
We are trying to service it with very limited resources. There is part of the Zinwa debt which is in dispute and has not been resolved.
The matter is in the courts and we need to resolve the issue as it, has been dragging for the past five years.
For now, we have a good relationship with Zinwa and we are paying them $15 000 every week.
As of now, both parties are happy.
On pensions, we are making efforts to ensure monthly we remit part of the owed pension contributions.
NC: What contribution do you feel the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) New Limpopo Toll Bridge (NLB) and other government and private money spinners in Beitbridge should make towards the development of the town?
LR: I feel there should be a certain percentage they share with the community of Beitbridge.
New Limpopo Bridge (NLB), from which Zinara took over, had a very strong and visible community social responsibility scheme within the town and district.
Residents continue to wish if Zinara (Toll Bridge Management) could do the same and adopt all roles NLB had.
There have been calls for Zimra to at least leave something for the Beitbridge community, since the border is their only community share ownership scheme facility.
Just a small percentage or contribute in terms of supplying of service delivery equipment like a refuse compactor or fire engine.
Waiver of all duties for Beitbridge Municipality would be welcome and is very sensible!
Our Municipality buys a lot from South Africa, because prices are quite low and reasonable there and if Zimra could waive duty on certain goods, especially, for service delivery.
NC: You have two hotels that have become white elephants, yet the town is often short of accommodation, what would you ask the National Social Services Authority (Nssa) and owners of the building that housed Express Hotel do with their structures.
LR: We hear the Nssa building that housed Rainbow is reopening as another hotel sometime during the year and we welcome that.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel could be converted into a college/tertiary college which we do not have in this town.
The hotel operating option could still be considered, but a new line of business will be more ideal for what used to be Holiday Inn.
We welcome with gratitude the intended reopening of the former Rainbow. The hotel gives class to Beitbridge Municipality.
NC: What incentives do you offer investors and what type of investments would you prefer?
LR: We are looking at investments in residential flats and shopping malls.
We are now thinking of high rise buildings and investments will be welcome in developing residential flats.
There is land for all sorts of investments including, but not limited to a solar plant, development of a modern stadium, golf courses, top class lodges, green parks and shopping malls. Incentives are negotiable.
NC: There is a road that cuts across your town that has taken more than a decade to construct what is the problem?
LR: This is the main road to the border and it is managed by Ministry of Transport. We have little control over what is happening though we are very concerned.
The image created is that Municipality of Beitbridge is failing.
Some residents do not know the difference between local and national roads, so they blame us as a municipality.
I am afraid for the last two years, we have been concerned on the unending works on that highway and have spoken to the authorities in charge. We hope they will find a quick solution.
Taking two years to do six kilometres is a very poor record.
Besides, the road is very busy and government should have really given it priority and lots of attention.
The highway is now becoming an eyesore and the earlier it is finished the better.
Across in South Africa, their government is working on a Musina bypass road of almost similar length, but has flyovers.