This is the seventh and final installment in a serialised document containing submis-sions made by chiefs from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces to President Emm-erson Mnangagwa on the occasion of his meeting with them at the State House in Bulawayo on June 28, 2019.
7. The problem of water
YOUR Excellency, water is a very important resource in the development and survival of our people and livestock. The scarcity of water, in some of our areas, is threatening our very existence.
In Beitbridge, Matobo, Tsholotsho, and Binga, for example, people have very poor access to clean water within a short distance and in some instances they are still drinking from water pans that the colonial government meant to be watering holes for wild animals. These are the only sources of water these communities have, which they share with their livestock.
The state of the water is not fit for human consumption, even when boiled. To make matters worse, these pans are seasonal and dry up way before the next rainy season.
Generally, in most of areas, people have to travel a long distance to fetch water from the nearest source. These long distances expose our women and girls to all manner of abuse and sexual crime. Even more disturbing, for areas in Binga, is that the district is bordered to the north by the mighty Zambezi River. Why not connect the district to this river for irrigation, livestock and household water?
7.1 Boreholes and small dams
There is need for government to drill more and deeper boreholes and build small dams for both household and livestock support. Existing dams are silted and not in a position to hold water beyond three months after the end of even the best rainy season. Some dams had their walls washed away many years ago and nothing has been done since. Many rural boreholes are no longer functioning. Government should, therefore, rehabilitate boreholes, remove the silt, strengthen the dam walls and expand the holding capacities of existing dams.
We call upon government to provide more than one borehole per village; provide piped water for those who stay next to dams like Mtshabezi, and other dams supplying water to towns and cities; and encourage efficient harvesting of rainwater. Even in the worst of droughts, rain always falls but is wasted as run-off water. This water can be harvested by individual households and could go a long way in plugging the water shortage gap.
7.2 Sustainable water supply
Your Excellency, the issue of water supply in an arid region like ours cannot be resolved without investing in long-term solutions. Small dams and boreholes here and there, while important, cannot generate the necessary capacities that can impact beyond just narrow household use. We need to go long term and big. The Matabeleland-Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) is the solution.
Your Excellency, we ask you to ensure that even in the prevailing severe budgetary and fiscal constraints, the MZWP become a reality in our lifetime. For decades now, drawing water from the Zambezi River has been viewed as the only sustainable way of addressing the water shortages in Matabeleland and Midlands.
Studies have shown that the construction of pipelines and reservoirs will not only address food insecurity but also turn subsistence agriculture into commercial-scale farming that will create jobs and earn foreign currency for the country. Towards this end we ask that government should immediately release resources for MZWP.
While we appreciate the return of the ownership of the MZWP to the people, we urge government to play an active role in facilitating the realisation of this project. In it lies the solution to most of our water and food security. We would like to see an active private-public partnership (PPP) in this project.
8: Infrastructure development
Your Excellency, one very important key to development, service delivery and an improved community life is access to quality information and good road infrastructure and connectivity. Where there are good roads, naturally, they attract more and better transport services. The same applies to cellphone coverage and radio and television services.
Currently, too many places in our areas are without these services. We still have some of our areas where there is no mobile phone, radio and television coverage. Several areas in Binga, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Kezi, Beitbridge, and Mangwe, among others, have no coverage. Some have to watch and listen to television and radio in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa and use mobile lines from those countries. This also means that these people cannot use mobile or plastic money and have to rely on cash, when it is so scarce.
All major trunk, secondary and artery roads in the region require urgent attention. There is also a needed for new roads to connect places together. The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, Bulawayo-Beitbridge and Bulawayo-Harare highways are too narrow to handle the growing amounts of traffic.
Attending to these roads will reduce road traffic accidents and improve the country’s economic development. Other roads that need serious attention are, among others, Nembudziya-Chireya, Lupane-Lusulu-Binga, Cross Dete-Binga-Siabuwa, Manjolo-Kariayangwe, Bulawayo-Nkayi-Manoti-Gokwe, Nkayi-Lupane, Mberengwa-West Nicholson, and Gokwe-Chitekete.
We also need a Victoria Falls-Binga-Kariba highway to line cater for these critically important tourist areas. Also important is for us to connect Beitbridge and Plumtree directly without going through Bulawayo or Gwanda.
Due to the bad state of the roads, especially during the rainy season, our areas can spend up to a week without bus services as the roads are particularly bad during this time of the year. Vehicles do not last owing to these roads. Because of bad roads without bridges, some children cannot attend school during most of the rain season. We call upon government to construct foot bridges in all strategic places to ensure that rivers are crossable even during flooding. In a tourism province like Matabeleland North, the poor state of roads has an effect on tourism, thus denying the country the much-needed foreign currency.
Your Excellency, our health centres are too far apart, expensive and suffering serious shortages of staff, equipment and medicines. Most have no maternity care for expecting mothers. There are no functioning ambulances and those that are there are located far away in district hospitals, something that results in people dying while waiting for ambulances.
For example, you find that you call for an ambulance in a clinic located 80 kilometres from the district hospital and it so happens that the ambulance is on its way to Mpilo Hospital or United Bulawayo Hospitals, you have to wait for the ambulance to get to Bulawayo and come back for the patient.
We have seen many people such as expecting mothers and people bitten by snakes die waiting for ambulances and because there are no medicines. Just the other day in Ndolwane area a boy who had been bitten by a snake died because the clinic had no medicine.
Water is also a huge problem in some centres. In some instances there is completely no water and working ablution facilities in medical centres, posing a serious danger to patients and medical staff.
We therefore call upon government to:
build a referral provincial hospital in each of our provinces;
build additional health centres;
ensure that our hospitals and medical centres have adequate staff, equipment and medicines;
build and adequately equip maternity centres in all clinics; and
ensure adequate functioning ambulances in every clinic or for every two or three clinics.
Your Excellency, access to electricity is still a major challenge for this region and this deficit is a major drawback in economic activity. Despite the fact that the Tonga people are the ones who were massively displaced during the construction of Kariba Dam and the despite the fact that those people around the Hwange Thermal Power Station are the ones who have to bear the consequences environmental pollution from coal, local people still have very poor or no access to electricity.
Rural economic development will be virtually impossible without rural communities and small businesses being connected to the national grid. Electricity will also help to speed up Internet communication in rural areas and enable primary and secondary schools to have full access to latest learning and teaching material.
It should not be the case that we only attempt to generate electricity through Zesa, but we need to look into various options including PPPs and localised private players.
No country can meet its development objectives unless it can produce adequate electricity to meet growing household and commercial needs in a country with a growing population.
We call upon government to ensure that people from around the power generation platforms for connected to the grid and left behind without electricity as power is transmitted to areas far.
11. Border posts for Binga
Your Excellency, there are no operating border posts connecting Zimbabwe to Zambia through Binga district. This is a serious anomaly that must be attended to. There are cultural and blood ties between the Tonga people in Binga and the same people in Zambia, therefore there is no justice in denying this same people a direct connection to each other via border posts.
People from Binga have to travel all the way to Victoria Falls to cross the border into Zambia and make their way into a Zambian place that is just adjacent to Binga. This is costing a lot of money and tremendously inconveniencing.
Border connections will also improve beneficial economic intercourse between the two countries.
In this regard we call upon government to establish border posts in Binga district, as is the case with other border districts.
12. Problem animals
Your Excellency, as a consequence of problem animals, each year many people lose their lives and thousands of dollars’ worth of property and crops are destroyed and livestock killed. This is preventable. But very little, if anything, is being done to prevent this menace.
We call upon government to strengthen perimeter fences so that animals do not stray outside boundaries where they are kept. Also, government must ensure that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority should put down a problem animal within hours it is spotted. For this to be possible it is important that there be armed resident local rangers in all wards bordering national parks and other animal protection zones to cut response time.
13: Protection of heritage sites
Your Excellency, Section 282(1)(b) of the constitution places a duty on the traditional leaders “to take measures to preserve the culture, traditions, history and heritage of their communities, including sacred shrines”. We take this duty extremely seriously. It is therefore saddening to note that sacred shrines are not receiving the respect they deserve from fellow Zimbabweans.
Take the example the Njelele shrine, over the past many years it has been desecrated in total disrespect of its importance in our culture and religion. The same happened in other shrines. People just drive in from far and wide and do as they like in complete disregard of local traditional leaders and laid down cultural and religious procedures.
Recently, somebody invaded the area and destroyed extremely important religious material. No consequences have followed this criminal conduct. Our interactions with law enforcement agencies have yielded very little traction. No one has been arrested and prosecuted yet.
We therefore call upon government:
to establish a strong legislative framework to protect sacred shrines from criminal elements bent on undermining the religious and cultural beliefs of our people;
to vigorously investigate acts of vandalism and destruction of property and theft that are taking place in sacred shrines, and
to strengthen the capacities of chiefs and local communities to protect sacred shrines from sacrilegious acts.
In conclusion, Your Excellency, as has already been noted in our introduction, the above submissions are not the only items that exist but we believe these are the most pressing and urgent for our communities. We are hopeful that this engagement will lead to a better tomorrow for all. The long road begins today.
Thank you, Your Excellency.