GWANDA South constituency is crying out loud for development.
BY REX MPHISA
Having provided a passage for thousands of former freedom fighters departing to Botswana, en-route to Zambia and Mozambique for military training, the communities feel they deserve developmental recognition.
The constituency, about 100 kilometres south of Gwanda town, in 1977 grabbed international attention when over 400 pupils were recruited and trooped en masse to Botswana to join the liberation struggle.
The group also included teachers, general staff and nurses from the nearby Manama Mission Hospital.
That landmark event, of which Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo is now known to have been part of student recruits, positively turned the view of the world towards Zimbabweans’ quest for emancipation.
It also shocked the settler forces as more blacks started joining the struggle for independence in droves.
Sadly, decades later, it remains the constituency’s only claim to having helped liberate the country from colonial rule.
As the country celebrates Heroes and Defence Forces days this week, the villagers want their lives improved.
In a message to Southern Eye at the weekend, one of the 36 154 members of the constituency appealed to this paper to highlight their plight.
“Maybe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will hear us through you. We have nothing to show for our faith in the ruling party and visits by our representative in Parliament Abednico Ncube are few and far apart.
“I am a villager from Buvuma village in Gwanda South constituency. As a journalist, I hope you might help us highlight the challenges we are facing as a community in terms of development. The whole constituency has not seen any meaningful socio-economic transformation since the new dispensation, let alone independence,” texted the villager requesting to remain anonymous.
“We are asking for attention and can the President whip our representative to think of home? He has not been here in a long time, despite him being resident minister of the province,” the villager said.
Infrastructure, he said, as a driver of development is non-existent.
Roads are in a terrible state and inadequate water points haunt villagers, who are also facing drought. Health facilities are inadequate.
“The mission-run Manama Hospital is all we have to date and we have inadequate police presence,” added the villager whose area is fraught with numerous cattle theft cases, most unsolved.
“There is no ambulance and our schools have low pass rates due to non-availability of electricity, resulting in extremely high staff turnover. Computers donated by former President Robert Mugabe are gathering dust.
“Above all, mobile phone and radio network connectivity is a nightmare, as there is no single base station, save for one at Manama Mission facilitated by the church elders. Phone communication in the area is horrible.”
Appeals to authorities have fallen on deaf ears and sadly people are now accepting the lack of development as normal, as they are not in touch with developments around the country.
But, Ncube was rude when comment was sought from him.
“Lina lithanda ukubhala amanga (you love writing lies). Should I cut off my phone?” he said before switching off his mobile phone.
Poor radio signals have seen constituents lagging behind current affairs.
Child marriages are a thorn in the flesh and rife in an area where rights of children and women are ignored due to lack of exposure.
“We are in a fix despite that the community is willing to provide labour,” the villager said.
But that does not mean Gwanda South, with seven political wards has no potential.
Thirty percent of the population of the constituency, which borders Botswana in the South is home to some of the country’s finest beef herds, with each of the 7 951 households having the potential to own at least five cattle, according to the Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas 2015, which recorded 80,2% poverty levels in the area.
Poor rainfall patterns have seen the bulk of the people begging for food relief from a variety of agencies.
Those in close proximity to service centres and irrigation schemes have better livelihoods.
There are more women than men in all the wards and considering their willingness to work, self-help schemes are possible, but the leadership appears devoid of initiatives and ideas.
Gwanda South has 28 670 beasts belonging to 30% of the population as at 2015. Farmers are also victim to widespread cattle thefts.
The constituency is home to what is perhaps the country’s most sophisticated cattle heist scheme, whose epicentre at Tshanyaugwe thrives courtesy of the absence of adequate law enforcement agencies.
“We appeal to the government to attend to our needs, facilitate the growth of our business centres by providing electricity service and build water bodies in our area,” another villager who only identified himself as Nyathi said.
“We have no banks and if our road to the new border post at Mulambapere was surfaced it would increase movement in our constituency and spur development,” said a traditional leader in the area, preferring to remain unnamed for fear of being victimised for speaking to the private Press.
“We are appealing for food relief for our livestock and us,” added the traditional leader, whose area has attracted a number of charity organisations probably due to food insecurity and the HIV and Aids pandemic.
Gwanda South constituency has 29 primary schools, with a total enrolment of 10 532 pupils, of which 5 316 are male representing 50,5% and the average teacher/pupil ratio ranges around 44:1 against a desired 28:1.
The primary schools feed nine inferior government-owned secondary schools and one private — the famous Manama.
“We want the government to improve our schools so that we can attract qualified teachers to improve our children’s education,” Nyathi said.