43 years of neglect

A majority of professionals and youth are leaving the districts due to lack of employment opportunities.

IN September this year, I travelled to Mt Darwin and Rushinga in Mashonaland Central province for family events.

These two neighbouring districts were once one during the colonial era with Rushinga district being one of the later districts to be formed by the Rhodesian Ministry of Internal Affairs in the late 1970s.

Rushinga was formerly a part of Mt Darwin district, but as the war wore on, it was decided to create a new district to improve administration.

Due to their proximity to Zambia and Mozambique, the two districts were heavily involved in the liberation war.

The freedom fighters found it easier to enter Zimbabwe without going through official borders after obtaining military training from any of the two countries.

Because of their isolation from larger cities, freedom fighters could enter the country covertly and remain undetected. 

That is why the two districts are still scarred from the war today. There are still traces of the buildings and infrastructure that were destroyed during the war in areas such as Madziwa, Chesa Chimhanda and others.

Many people still suffer from war-related injuries, many lives were lost and some families’ loved ones are still missing.

For those who lived through the war, the fear of it persists even over 40 years after it ended. They do not want to hear about the return of the war.

Major military installations were located at Mt Darwin and Rushinga, and the post-independence government eventually took control of them.

At the districts’ growth points in the early 1980s, it was common to see soldiers roaming around.

Contrary to what we see and read in the media, these two districts are neglected and rapidly ageing with little to no signs of revitalisation. A majority of professionals and youth are leaving the districts due to lack of employment opportunities.

Some of the elderly, who seem lonely after their children and grandchildren left in search of a better life still reside in the villages. They have no idea when the youths will be back. All they can do is hope.

Basic services are still extremely scarce, in part due to poor economic conditions and difficulties with access.

For instance, there is no single hotel or lodge in Rushinga, so people working on development projects there are either compelled to sleep in their cars or drive back to Mt Darwin to find somewhere to stay. This is 43 years of independence.

Although extremely narrow, some portions of the Mt Darwin to Rushinga Road are still largely intact.

The fact that these pre-independence roads are still in the same condition the Rhodesian government left them begs the question of why they endure longer than our post-independence roads, which never seem to last more than one election cycle.

Despite its narrowness, the Chesa-Rushinga Road is still in place, but the section from Chimhanda to Mukosa (the border with Mozambique) is still corrugated and dusty as it was before independence in 1980.

Why is it important to concentrate on road development? Among the seven districts in Mashonaland Central province — often perceived as the bastion of the ruling party — are Mt Darwin and Rushinga.

Given Mashonaland Central’s 43 years of commitment to the ruling party, one would think the province would have been rewarded with large-scale development projects.

But that is not the case. According to my 93-year-old uncle, the reason the elderly population in his community continues to support the ruling party is their fear of war.

They have only experienced one major national event — the war — and they do not wish to see another.

With nothing more than faith, the younger generation has turned this fear into blind support.

They just support without question or need for justification; an inherited mindset that the ruling party can now rely on without difficulty.

Roads are like the reception area of any place. Roads have a significant positive social impact in addition to contributing significantly to economic growth and development.

They are essential to the growth and development of a country. A road network is also essential in the fight against poverty because it gives people access to social, health and educational services as well as employment opportunities.

Therefore, one way of stifling development in an area is limiting accessibility.

One would have hoped that the people of Mt Darwin and Rushinga would have at least been rewarded with good roads, given that these two districts have remained loyal to the ruling party 43 years after independence; but there is nothing like that, yet they still vote for Zanu PF.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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