By Partinella Ngozo
A villager must travel at least 13 kilometres to purchase basic household goods. Alternatively, he would have to travel to neighbouring districts such as Hwange and Lupane for his shopping. To access decent medical services the option again, he has to travel at least 13 kilometres to St. Luke’s hospital in Lupane, because local clinics in the district are far and dilapidated.
These are some of the struggles and challenges that poor, marginalised Binga South villagers must contend with to survive.
Bad road network, annex schools, decrepit shops, poor clinics and living conditions are characteristic of villages in the South such as Lubimbi, Kariyangwe, Lusulu, Pashu, Tinde, Saba, Siansundu, Sobohla and Manyanda.
Most schools in the area, such as Chibila Primary School are extension schools with poor infrastructure made from mud, thatch, and wood. The schools have a few classroom blocks and no fencing.
Villagers in the South are largely maize farmers and often due to persistent droughts they rely on donors and turn to wild fruits to survive. Their economy is driven by the local Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL) and forex is a privilege of the North.
This, however, is not the same for Binga North inhabitants who by and large live in better conditions when compared to their counterparts on the opposite side. Binga Centre, lodges, nice houses, government offices, non-governmental organisations offices and a good road network are features that punctuate the landscape in the North.
The economy of the North, which is located along the Zambezi valley, is powered by the rich maritime business on the escarpment. Residents from areas such as Mlibizi and Simatelele sell fish and matemba in United States dollars to Zambians and Zimbabweans, and have resultantly managed to build better houses and their infrastructure, including roads, are more developed than the South.
Villagers who spoke to this publication laid the blame of underdevelopment on their legislator, Joel Gabbuza.
Gabbuza owns a decent house in Binga Centre (North) just next to Binga High school. He was once a Geography teacher at Binga High School and his business interests are in Binga North.
“By our standards he is one of the few people who own a massive house at the Centre. He spends most of his time there and it boggles the mind why he chose to represent the South,” remarked Mgcini Moyo.
Another villager, who insisted on being named as saMbongeni for fear of intimidation let rip on Gabbuza and accused him of doing nothing for the last twenty years.
“The guy only engages people during campaigns but disappears thereafter. He has been in office since 2000 when I was in Form one and he still there but nothing has ever been done. He is a massive failure,” said saMbongeni. Another villager, Trust said: “He does not talk or engage with people. We tried replacing him with a southerner, but he blocked it and said (Nelson) Chamisa wanted him. He is only an MP because villagers hate Zanu (PF). The man whom he blocked from challenging him in the MDC Alliance contested as an independent and narrowly lost”.
Asked to comment on the litany of allegations levelled against him Gabbuzza was furious and emotional saying: “This is personal. Those are not questions. I am not always in the press and I do my work in silence”.
Quizzed further Gabbuza blamed the poor state of roads on government.
“They are challenges, and it is not the job of the MP to grade a road or to construct a new road. Why don’t you ask the government what it has done on state roads?
“Whatever little development that is taking place it is from the resources that we have pulled together with my people. Projects are taking place and tomorrow we are unveiling a new dam.” added Gabbuza.
Commenting on that he is mostly based in the North the legislator thundered: “Where did you expect me to build my house? What is wrong in building a house in Bulawayo or in Binga? Binga
Centre is the capital and what is wrong with building a house in the North? I have a homestead in the South and this is where I stay. My wife is the one staying in the North”.
However, Prince Dubeko Sibanda, Binga North legislator was more candid and forthcoming opining that the Southerners could be spot on because the Growth Point and the riverbanks are in his constituency.
“It could be because all investment is primarily attracted to the growth point and the riverbanks than offshore. In that regard they could be right,” Dubeko said.
Villagers went on to lay the blame also on the Rural District Council (RDC) and accused the administration of bias towards the North, as most development funds from the government are allegedly channelled to areas along Zambezi banks.
Further, Binga South dwellers argued that authorities are tribal and marginalise them on the basis of Ndebele links.
“Binga is administered through the RDC so when development funds are availed they make sure that a huge chunk of money goes to their place of origin. The southern part is labelled ‘a Ndebele region’ and they say ‘muli mandebele nywe’ (You are Ndebeles). They do not consider us as Tongas or people from Binga.” said one, Honest Mwale.
Binga South includes areas that are connected to Lupane and Hwange and in these areas there are Tonga people who speak Ndebele fluently.
“You may not notice one is Tonga or Ndebele unless you check their IDs,” Mwale said.
An elderly woman, Pauline Munkuli said living in the south was a nightmare.
“Life here is unbearable and our children do not have jobs and the only way to survive is to farm. We have transport challenges because of poor roads and transport operators charge a lot for a trip from Binga Centre to Siansundu where I stay, so I only go there when I have important business,” said Munkuli.
“Our children are uneducated, and they relocate to South Africa to try and eke out a living and take care of us,” she further added.
Responding to this, RDC chief executive, Joshua Muzamba, dismissed the claims and insisted that all projects undertaken were decided by councillors from both the North and the South.
Muzamba also insisted that the council has carried out developmental projects in Binga South.
Said Muzamba: “The RDC’s development programs and projects are a result of a consultative process of the council which is comprised of councillors from Binga North and South. Our district is comprised of most ethnic groups of the country.
“We have several major projects currently underway in Binga South. These include and are not limited to Chibila clinic, Chipale clinic, upgrading of several primary schools and piped water schemes for several primary schools.
“Actually Binga South is the bread basket of the district with a GMB depot located there. Plans are afoot to establish a coal mine in Chitongo.”
Muzamba added that the council has a sub office in Binga South to ensure that residents do not travel long distances to relate with council on service
Edmore Mulenga pronounced that only secession from the North will lead to the development of the South.
“It’s hard to map the way forward but I think once we get an MP we can talk to we will have to lobby for a separate district from the northern part because the underdevelopment of the south has been to a larger extent caused by the leadership,” Mulenga said.