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Letter to the President : Matebeleland roads in a sorry state

Opinion & Analysis
Bulawayo-Nkayi road in a bad state.

Dear Mr President,

There is an adage that says “to go is to see.” I am unsure whether it is only appropriate to use when one is encouraged to explore exotic places, or if it is a general statement that encourages us to experience life events and places for ourselves — more like a first-hand experience.

When I think of Tsholotsho, Nkayi and other rural areas I have visited, my thought is always, “to go is to see.”

Reading about these places and listening to others share their experiences can never fully prepare you for the heartbreak that comes from going to these places firsthand.

The heartbreak starts with the poor roads, which are a constant reminder of broken, unfulfilled dreams and promises.

Can you believe that 44 years after achieving independence, our beloved country still has roads in such terrible condition?

A 118 km journey can take between two to three hours due to the poor road conditions.

Isn't it time for the government to fulfil its promise of constructing world-class roads in our lifetime, Mr. President?

The Department of Roads under the Ministry of Transport & Infrastructure Development envisions “See Zimbabwe enjoy world class road infrastructure,” yet as a proud and patriotic citizen, I have yet to experience this.

The roads to Tsholotsho and Nkayi from Bulawayo do not guarantee the safety of travellers, are not easily passable and are unreliable.

Mr. President, when the second dispensation was ushered in back in November 2017, you promised us a new dawn and “a vision that reflects the collective aspirations and determination of the people of Zimbabwe to achieve a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society by 2030.”

This vision and the promises made are clearly articulated in the impressive National Development Strategy (NDS1).

However, I am dumbfounded because the roads to Tsholotsho and Nkayi show no signs of progress, despite infrastructure development being stated as a national priority.

Constructing/rehabilitating a mere 10km of the Tsholotsho to Bulawayo Road and 15km of the Nkayi to Bulawayo Road yearly is inadequate and demonstrates a lack of commitment to rural development.

Mr. President, you often say “nyika inovakwa nevene vayo/ilizwe lakhiwa ngabanikazi bayo- a country is built by its people.” But for the people of Tsholotsho, Nkayi, and other rural areas experiencing little to no development, are they not also considered “vene”?

 If a country is truly built by all its people, then the development and progress should be evident in every corner of the nation.

The neglect of these rural areas contradicts the notion that everyone has a role to play in building our country.

In a Herald article written on the 28th of July 2023, it was mentioned that you broke from tradition by traveling by road from Bulawayo to Lupane to get a personal feel for the communities’ needs.

But I wonder — what tradition was broken?

What is your usual mode of transportation?

When was the last time you travelled to Tsholotsho or Nkayi using these roads?

Did you truly get a sense of what ordinary citizens experience — the physical and emotional exhaustion from navigating potholes for hours?

Or were you shielded in the high-end vehicles that chiefs and MPs request? Did the trip instil in you a sense of holy anger that drives one to action?

As someone who works for a women's rights organization and frequently travels to these “hard to reach” areas to empower young women, I have witnessed firsthand the socio-economic underdevelopment — evident in lower literacy, poor education and healthcare, lack of infrastructure, poverty, and high teenage pregnancy rates.

There is a clear connection between road infrastructure and development.

Roads are crucial for connecting regions and increasing access to vital services, markets, and economic opportunities.

The current state of the roads hinders this and has a disproportionate effect on the already disadvantaged girls and young women.

Despite the resilience and agency, they demonstrate, more must be done.

While budget constraints have been cited as the reason for gradual rehabilitation, I question why the proceeds from the abundant natural resources in these districts, such as timber, are not being used for road construction and infrastructural development.

Mr. President, I implore you and your government to prioritize Tsholotsho, Nkayi and many other rural areas before the National Development Strategy 1 reaches its end in 2025.

Let us translate the holy anger into tangible action and progress.



NB: This is a weekly column and we would like to invite fellow citizens to contribute and be part of this thought leadership and nation building initiative. You can e-mail your contributions to [email protected]

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