I READ with shock, horror, awe, amazement and utter perplexity an article where Transport and Infrastructure minister Obert Mpofu, who conveniently is a long-serving Umguza constituency Member of Parliament, has indicated that there should be tollgates on the dilapidated, destroyed and deadly Bulawayo-Tsholotsho and Bulawayo Nkayi roads among other roads.
I am very happy that at last these roads have finally gotten the attention of a Zimbabwean minister and there seems to be plans to move towards upgrading them.
However, there is something very amiss and very sinister about the minster’s proposal — unless of course if the proposal is an admission of some glaring unspeakable facts. The minister should indeed be credited for having realised that the Zimbabwean government is not willing, is not committed and is not ready to use national funds to develop key road infrastructure in Matabeleland, that is why he is saying to the people of the region “Eat what you kill’!
Where I have a big problem with this proposal is that to me it seems while other regions in the country are benefiting from the national cake, the people of Matabeleland have to bake their own cake – that’s very scandalous – unless of course there is admission at highest offices that Matabeleland is not part of Zimbabwe that is why it should not enjoy the Zimbabwean national cake.
Why should we raise our own money to develop our roads unless the government is telling us that we are not part of the development and concern matrix of this country called Zimbabwe?
Let us look at some key issues here:
First and foremost Tsholotsho and Nkayi are not poor districts. No!
For many years we have seen numerous trucks coming from Tsholotsho laden with timber en-route to Harare. Where has the money realised from timber been going to and why are the timber funds not being used to develop the Tsholotsho road, if they are there?
It is also common knowledge that there are a number of trucks belonging to hunters and operators that are always headed to Tsholotsho and back where they hunt elephants and other wildlife of course at a good fee.
But can someone somewhere tell us where all the campfire funds have been vanishing to since the Tsholotsho road is in a sorry pathetic state, villagers are living in abject poverty and even during floods the funds are not used to assist them?
The same can be said of Nkayi. There is timber and a lot of mining activities there and one wonders who is benefiting from the resources if the communities of these places and their roads are not.
How about the farming activities happening in the Bubi—Umguza region? Are the farmers there paying any form of tax or levy?
Because surely their trucks also contribute to the continued damage of these two roads. If they are paying where is the money going to and what is it being used for?
The other confusing factor to this whole matrix is that, should we be allowed to assume that the proposed tollgates are a silent acceptance by ministers from Matabeleland that either they have failed to influence the Harare government to channel resource to Nkayi and Tsholotsho or that they themselves as ministers they have totally failed to unlock resources for the region?
Mind you in the last inclusive government there were about three ministers and one deputy from Matabeleland North, that is, excluding the governor of Matabeleland North and the then governor of Bulawayo who used to daily commute from Tsholotsho to Bulawayo.
This also excludes the then deputy president of the Democratic Republic of Zimbabwe, and the then deputy prime minister and vice-president of MDC-T. So if you count all of them you are talking of eight people in Cabinet — and should we be pardoned to believe that they all failed to influence a decision to upgrade two roads in five years?
Currently we boast of four powerful ministers of government who weekly use either of the two roads, but still we can’t get the government to release and let alone allocate funds for the upgrading of these two roads. If for no other reason I was going to expect that the government would have committed to improve the two roads in question at least for peace and reconciliation purposes.
Remember these roads lead to some of the communities of Matabeleland that were the worst affected by Gukurahundi – therefore in the spirit of unity and togetherness one would have expected a positive sign from the government.