Community Development Opinions Politics

2023 Elections: Manicaland must vote for devolution

Land degradation in Marange due to mining
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Writes Masotsha Munyarari

Zimbabwe is badly hurting, especially as it suffers from deep historical marginalisations along ethnic, racial, and sexual lines. With less than 40 days to go to the next election, this article seeks to ring some bell in the hearts and minds of policymakers and contesting politicians to strive to rise above these shallow lines of marginality and build one prosperous nation as the 2013 Constitution espouses: we the people. At the moment of writing this piece, it is quite clear that Manyikaland, the whole of it, is not part of the “We” in Zimbabwe. The discussion below illuminates that sad reality. But the import of this is that, after all, the people of Manyikaland must rise up on August 23 and vote for devolution. Zimbabwe is our country too!

Economic marginalisation and the resource curse

The theory of the resource curse basically means people surrounded by plenty of resources remain poor. This is true for Chiadzwa, Marange in Mutare rural. Diamonds worth millions of dollars are taken by a small plane, every week on Thursday. The small runway is maintained for this purpose deep in dusty and poor Marange. The road from the provincial capital Mutare to Marange is sorry had it not been for the Government of Japan which built the road from 22 miles to Marange business centre. The local district hospital at Marange is dilapidated. One can not imagine it existing in the shadows of billion-dollar resources. Granted, diamonds are for the nation. But surely the losses of land, lives, and the mutilation of young men at the hands of vicious police dogs is what is vivid to us every day.

As if that were not enough, the trend of marginality is extending the exclusion of locals in the gold syndicates in Imbeza Valley at Penhalonga and Mutanda. The gold and diamond fields of Chimanimani were taken by the Russians. Locals are out. The gold that the local son, Scott Sakupwanya flaunts in Harare, in fact, confirms our thesis- an attempt to Hararenise Zimbabwe. We will discuss this at a later point.

The lithium and lime of Dorowa is scooped from the earth and taken to Harare. Nothing for Buhera. Dorowa and Murambinda are growing more from their sons and daughters in the Diaspora fighting to improve their own dens.

Chisumbanje and the entire Eastern Highlands is a jewel for Zimbabwe. The region can grow crops and help build forex reserves for Zimbabwe. Alas, what do we have? Politically connected speculators in Harare amassed much of the lands for boasting purposes. The production of apples, macadamia, litchis, flowers, and even tourism has slowed down as in most cases these Harare people are in Harare. Ours is to prune the bushes and cry another missed opportunity as they promise milk and honey every election season.

The Chisumbanje issue is different. The people’s land was taken to allow a fuels company to grow sugar cane to produce blended fuel and sugar. That is a noble commercial development but at what cost? What is sad is after lots of pleas, cries, letters, and delegations to Harare- the local Ndau elders found no listeners in the Zezuru crammed offices of Harare, who, in most cases asked for interpreters to ask the Ndau people to speak proper Shona. What an insult! This sad story of stolen lands is common along the Mozambican border areas of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Mutare, and Nyanga.

The cases are too many to mention, suffice it to say Zimbabwe as a whole feels the impact of the marginalization of Manyika. The economic and political inclusion of Manyika people in development will without doubt increase the levels of money circulation in Zimbabwe, meaning some increased aggregate demand as a whole. But who cares?

The Matendere ruins and Birchnough Bridge in Buhera are derelict. Surely these could be developed into some tourist resorts just like Nalatalie in Gweru. The water, the waterfalls, and tourism potential are massive- again, lost opportunities!

This theory of marginality is not remote or empty. On the social development side, one wonders what the Ministry of Higher Education planned with the Manicaland State University for Applied Sciences (MSUAS). It came late and seems to be just ticking the box in terms of support from the central government. This is in spite of the truth that Manicaland has one of the highest academic rates in Zimbabwe both by academics per capita as well as average pass rate both at Ordinary and Advanced levels. Sarah Chavhunduka-Kachingwe, an academic doyen from Manyika, the first black girl to enroll at the University of Rhodesia is ignored. Who then inspires Manyika girls if not Sarah Chanunduka-Kachingwe and Lydia Chimonyo?

Why such brazen political exclusion?

The socio-political marginalisation is astounding. The complete silence and ignorance of icons of Manyika in socio-economic and political spaces stinks. What post-1980 business can be discussed in Zimbabwe without Roger Boka, John and Richard Zvinoera, Mwayera, Nyamurundira, Siduna, Mataure among others? The irony is that it is these families with fledging businesses at Gazaland which supported the very Zanu leaders in detention in the 1960-70s.

From a political end, one quickly sees the attempt to erase the work of local sons and daughters in building present-day Zimbabwe. Ndabandingi Sithole, yes, was recently celebrated as a national hero- but at what cost and for whose benefit? Maurice Nyagumbo, Zimbabwe’s longest-serving detainee of 21 years deserves more celebration in spite of his fatal challenge for Zanu Vice Presidency in 1984. How dare those people who were in the Zanu high command in 1978 and served Zimbabwe to the end were, later in life, pauperised.

John Gwitira trained our current Vice President Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga. At what moment does he become an ordinary veteran condemned to his village in Nyanyadzi Chimanimani? Simpson Mtambanengwe, a celebrated legal mind who was trained by Hebert Chitepo was condemned to Munyarari under Chief Zimunya, forgotten in spite of him being part of the legal team at the Lancaster House talks. Moven Mahachi, yes, is a national hero- but it ended there. Who else knows he is the person who was at the centre of organizing for Mugabe and Tekere to cross into Mozambique through Tangwena with the help of the Anglican and Catholic churches.

Moven Mahachi’s village in Dewedzo under Chief Makoni attests to our thesis of neglect. Out of the so many cases to discuss, perhaps, we can conclude on Cde Chinx Chingaira. His works in Mozambique and post 1980 in using music to oil the revolution and build the new Zimbabwe are known by all. Is it not ironic that national radio and television stations of Zimbabwe loudly play his music around independence, heroes, defence forces, and other important days when his value was erased because some Zanu PF faction suspected he supported Mai Mujuru- so called chipfukuto or weevil faction? His family is one of the poorest families in Zimbabwe whilst those of cowards are enjoying the largesse of ill-gotten forex, tenders and contracts from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

The post-2017 development in Manyikaland continues to confirm our thesis of deliberate marginality. Manicaland had two successive governors post-November 2017, Ellen Gwaradzimba and Nokuthula Matsikinyere. They were very fine ladies, and rest in peace Mai Gwaradzimba. The constant issue raised during provincial traditional leader’s meetings was not just their astounding lack of knowledge of the local Manyika histories and customs, but Mai Matsikinyeri’s determination to speak Karanga in provincial development meetings. Whether this was a reflection of the spirit of the 2nd Republic or a lack of grounded Manyika people to be resident Ministers is a discussion for another day. But one doubts that Zanu PF did not have grounded Manyika veterans who could be Resident Ministers to push for local development issues.

So what?

This discussion is not just venting in vanity. Our Zimbabwean Constitution is clear in Chapter 14 that Provincial and Local Governments must be constituted and function through local leaders so that, indeed, no one and no place is left behind. One really prays that post August 23, the Manyikaland Provincial Council reflects the local and attends to these and more of our local issues. Devolution and local development are needed- and for us in Manyika it’s a struggle because of the long history of marginality and exclusion.

The rhetoric questions linger. How and why an airstrip in Marange has more flights than Mutare aerodrome? How and why Harare -Mutare has more toll gates than Harare-Masvingo or Harare-Gweru when it’s almost the same distance? How and why would Solomon Mutsvairo get medals and national hero status for writing poems when Dambudzo Marechera, a global art icon self-propels through his art?

He lies forgotten at Vengere cemetery in Rusape. Is it because Mutsvairo was Mugabe’s village boy? How and why was the Feruka oil refinery closed, and pump fuel from Beira to Harare and transport it back to Manicaland at a higher cost? How and why transfer the corporate headquarters of Mbada and Anjin Diamond Mining, Border Timbers, Allied Timbers, Green Fuels, and other locally producing corporates to Harare when they extract in Manyikaland? Who will employ and support local businesses when every money opportunity is Hararenised? Dorowa Minerals, Tanganda Tea, Mamas brand of Associated Foods, and Mega are the few minority torch bearers that kept faith in associating with their base.

In conclusion, one wishes to state that the upcoming August 23 election must be, in fact, a referendum on devolution. We have no other village except our beautiful Kanyi. Yes, we are scratching our scars and counting our sorrows in Chipinge, Chimanimani, Makoni, Buhera, Mutare, Mutasa, and Nyanga- but we must pat ourselves on the back and stand tall. Let us mobilise to vote- and vote en-masse for devolution. Zimbabwe will never be developed if one of its segments gets alienated whether on political, racial, ethnic, sexual, or religious lines. We the people: Manicaland will rise again!

Masotsha Munyarari – based at Hot-Springs, Chimanimani contactable at sibofina@gmail.com

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende