GOKWE North has benefitted very little from rural development programmes by government as the district remains one of the least developed.
BY MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
Villagers here say it is disturbing that they have no access to clean water, education and health facilities while the road network is very poor, making communication very difficult, 34 years after independence.
They said the district, which used to be the main producer of cotton, remains in the blind spot for the foreseeable future since the crop is no longer commercially viable.
Villagers said a poor road network makes it very difficult for them to link with other areas or ferry their produce to the markets.
“Roads are a major problem in this area. We were hoping that government would chip in and assist us, but nothing is happening,” said Mary Siziba, a villager from Copper Queen.
The major roads that link Mtora Growth Point (Nembudziya) to most urban centres are impassable as bridges were washed away a long time ago.
To make matters worse, several road construction projects which had been started by government remain incomplete close to two decades after construction began.
“We no longer have buses to take us to towns. People now use kombis which are not reliable and charge outrageous fares,” said a teacher in the area, who requested anonymity.
The villagers said the poor road network had impacted negatively on service delivery in the district.
Chawira Dube, who is headman Siyamabejo in Zhombe, said most of his subjects were failing to access health facilities and this has been the case for many years.
“People are dying because they are failing to access health services,” said Dube. “Most women have to walk long distances to access neonatal services at Zhomba clinic. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the distant clinic also faces acute shortages of potable water.
In most cases expecting mothers are compelled to bring water from their homes.”
He said villagers walk for long distances to fetch water and at times they have to share it with wild animals, exposing them to diseases.
Many villagers travel for over 15 km to the nearest water source, especially during the dry season.
Most business centres in Gokwe North, including Chitekete and Chireya, are yet to be electrified despite the fact that the district is one of the main producers of cotton in the country.
Gokwe North council chief executive officer, Shingirai Tigere said a lot of effort was being put to improve infrastructure.
“I believe a lot has been done to improve this district. Gokwe North used to be marginalised but today there is a lot of improvement,” he said. “There are lots of things that we are doing as council and government has also set its plans to develop this district.”
Tigere said the local authority was in the process of engaging partners, mainly the donor community, to develop the district.
“We are engaging donors and the government to develop this area. We have our strategic plan in place and we hope this will help us spur development,” he said.
Villagers said they were shut out from the rest of the country because they have no access to newspapers, radio and television.
“We hardly read newspapers here. When we get these papers at the centre they will be sold for US$2 and the Sunday papers which we get on Wednesdays sell for up to US$2,50 a copy,” said a senior civil servant, who works at Mtora Growth Point.
Gokwe district was divided into Gokwe North and Gokwe South districts during the early 1990s after it was realised that the district was too big, making it hard to administer.
Gokwe North district has a population of 243 000 people and is also endowed with large coal deposits in the Sengwa area.