ONE hears this almost all the time: “Bulawayo is dead”, “Matabeleland is deserted”.
A Candid Date with Mthulisi Mathuthu
So frequently are these verdicts passed by both the ordinary and the notable that they have, over the years, become a depressing mantra.
Mischievous as they may sound, these twin hyperboles are not without logic. A drive along Plumtree Road and through the Belmont industrial district reveals enough to shock even the most optimistic Matabeleland denizen. The same is the case with both the Khami and Josiah Chinamano roads.
Derelict and abandoned warehouses lie side by side. No longer do the manufacturing machines roar in unison as before. And the smoke that billowed from the top of factories into the blue sky — giving the city its other name koNtuthuziyathunqa — has become a rarity.
The long and short of it is that business has indeed slowed, factories have closed and unemployment has risen. In such circumstances it is easy to throw one’s hands up in despair and turn elsewhere.
And indeed, as has been said earlier, many have given up on Matabeleland and Bulawayo as a bad joke and migrated to South Africa, Bostwana and beyond. Seldom does one find a family across Matabeleland which has no relative living across the Limpopo River or the Ramaquebane River.
Many now truly despise their land of birth. You would have imagined that the western part of the country was some ordinary place with neither history nor fame of its own. And yet the opposite is the case.
This is the land from whence hails legends and a place where many, who were born elsewhere, once sojourned. Think of Joshua Nkomo, Masostha Ndlovu, Charles Mzingeli, Benjamin Burombo, Robert Mugabe, Edison Zvobgo, Bruce Grobbelaar, Max Makanza, Naran, Zemura, Lovermore Majaivana, Elvis Chiweshe, Simon Muzenda, Yvonne Vera, Henry Olonga, Victor Olonga, Dorothy Masuka, Joseph Msika and Thenjiwe Lesabe.
And there are upcoming and young pacesetters too: novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, Emakhandeni Pirates FC owner Faith Silandulo Dube, Sandra Ndebele, Methembe Ndlovu, Jays Marabini, Kombani Lodge, Mduduzi Mathuthu, among many others.
Put simply, Matabeleland is nothing, but some kind of hungry if not tired lion needing only its roar back. Nobody else should provide the roar, except the people of Matabeleland themselves. Gladly, that roar is now here and is loud and clear: the Southern Eye.
This is a newspaper which should, from the outset, refuse to accept the unnecessary fate that has befallen this region. Its roar should scare and scatter swarms of greedy looters and spur on a generation of young and energetic initiators.
For a place endowed with natural resources like the Victoria Falls, Matopo Hills, gold and uranium deposits among many others, the state of affairs with regards the economy is simply unacceptable.
Already there are questions to be asked: What is happening to the revenue collected at the Beitbridge, Plumtree and Victoria Falls border posts — which are among some of the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa? Whatever happened to the Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative, Lemco Foods, Zeco, NRZ and Merlin and Lumene Water falls, Haddon and Sly, Zimbabwe International Trade Fair? Is the Ascot Racecourse still as vibrant as then? Does the Selborne Hotel still attract customers from as far as the Transvaal, SA? Does the Churchill Arms still attract customers from as far as Yorkshire in England and Perth in Australia? Do both the Falcon College and Reps Primary School still attract pupils from abroad? Whatever happened to the greenery that beautified the Esigodini plots? Do both the Silalatshani and Magwe Irrigation schemes still operate to full capacity? If not, why?
Human rights issues do count too. How far have the police gone with the investigation into the murder of both Martin and Gloria Olds?
Where was Patrick Nabanyama’s body thrown? And last, but not least, how is the lobby for compensation and for a truth commission into the Matabeleland genocide of the 1980s going? One can go on and on.
And it is not as if there are no people to pester for a region we want: Eric Bloch, Eddie Cross, David Colart, Delma Lupepe, Thokozani Khuphe, Trevor Ncube, Ruth Labode, Jonathan Moyo, Simon Khaya Moyo, Mthuli Ncube, Obert Mpofu, Peter Ndlovu, Benjani Mwaruwari — all of them sons and daughters of Matabeleland and Bulawayo. If Matabeleland was a sleeping lion, it is now roaring. One can almost hear it.
Mthulisi Mathuthu is a Zimbabwean journalist based in the UK