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Gutu Central sinks into an abyss of poverty

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Gutu Central sinks into an abyss of poverty

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BY MATTHEW TAKAONA

This weekend I had a social incursion into Gutu Central, the Constituency held by Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando.

Once in the Constituency one cannot stop noticing the donor-dependency syndrome created among villagers in that vast political district. If it is a strategy, it must be working well for its architects but obviously a disaster for the general development of the area.

What got my journalism antennae up on Sunday December, 18, 2022 was a gathering of over 600 villagers at Guzha Primary School queueing to get 10kg of maize per person as food aid. The wait had been for two long days. On Saturday the villagers waited from 9am to 7pm but the lorries bringing food aid did not come.

None of the villagers complained because this is common and expected.

On Sunday, the lorries only arrived at the venue at 3pm and distribution went on until late into the evening with the villagers walking back home at night. The beneficiaries came from far-off villages that include, Mutero, Jaravaza, Kudzerema, Chagwiza, Chivasa, Chinyaure, Muusha, Tsvangire and Gonye.

I could not help noticing how Zimbabweans have been stripped of their dignity. The villagers including 80-year-olds waited at the venue, hungry and tired for two days just to get 10kgs of maize worth US$3,50 at black market rates and this allocation is expected to last them a month.

Ironically, Gutu Central probably has one of the most highly educated populace in Zimbabwe because of the high concentration of mission schools namely Mutero, Gutu and Dewure. There is also Alheit which is just at the periphery of that constituency. There is no constituency in Zimbabwe that has such a high concentration of mission schools; the pioneers of formal education in Zimbabwe.

The natural question as I witnessed this human tragedy was; are our politicians content with this kind of situation where people literally feed from the palms of their hands? Must it not be a primary programme for MPs to work on developmental projects that give economic independence to their people and restore their dignity and self-esteem?

There has been sinister arguments by some MPs that development is not part of their role. It indeed is a weird argument because their roles as specified are law making, oversight and representation and naturally development is found under all the three.

As one walks from Guzha Primary into Guzha Business Centre, 400m away one is greeted by sign posts indicating free grinding mills bought and set up at every business center by Chitando who heads one of the wealthiest ministries in the country. The posts have smiling pictures of Chitando and President Mnangagwa. 

From the maize queue, villagers take a bee-line to the grinding mills for free processing and the food dependency syndrome circle is complete. Now the politician waits for payback time; his vote. This circle is repeated every five years to the detriment of development and genuine empowerment projects for villagers.

Ironically, Chitando’s grinding mills have thrown small entrepreneurs out of business as they charge a paltry 50 RTGS for a bucket translating to US 5 cents as opposed to the US $1.00 charged by other millers. Small millers have closed shop throughout Gutu Central as their source of income dried up. He crippled a thriving small sector to reinforce villagers’ dependency on him as a politician.

Some millers complained that they used to send children to school using money from this business but not anymore.

Churches and in particular the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe have not been spared freebees of meat and drinks at their gatherings by the Minister.

Another hallmark of failure or sheer negligence on the part of Chitando is the decimation of almost all the herd of cattle in the constituency under his watch. Villagers lost thousands of cattle. In fact, conservative figures say 70% or 6 000 cattle with a value of US$3 million were wiped out by theileriosis, a simple disease preventable by regular dipping.

Any rural area MP would know that the poor villager’s bank is in his cattle pen and so is his draught power. This was the moment for Chitando to stand up for the poor farmer but he never intervened as the epidemic ran riot from 2019 up to last year. Villagers were left on their own; no word from Chitando, no word from Government and up to now the MP has not issued a public statement on that catastrophe.

The absence of an MP during such an hour of need means his priorities are elsewhere and obviously it is not Gutu Central.

In terms of infrastructure and services, Gutu Central is the most advanced constituency in the district as it boasts the biggest number of urban and semi urban settlements including Mpandawana Growth Point, Chisheche, Dewure, Gonye and Mushayavanhu. It houses the district’s biggest hospital, Gutu Mission and the third biggest which is Mutero Mission Hospital. 

Gutu Central has large rivers ie; Sote, Dewure, Chinyika and Mukuro and therefore immense potential for dams and irrigation schemes

Despite all this potential the MP did not initiate any economic development projects in the last five years. His name is synonymous with food handouts in a constituency where unemployment is close to 99%.

Half the shop buildings at business centers are dilapidated due to a rural economy collapsing from lack of markets for farm produce, rural urban migration and migration into the Diaspora which has depleted the country’s human skills, particularly in the economically active age groups.

Government and Gutu Rural District Council on their part have nothing to show in terms of economic development projects. All they have done in the last five years is build a few clinics and classroom blocks which in any case have not been completed. The projects are funded through the Devolution Fund although Zanu PF MPs claim them as their personal projects.

The biggest Government project in Gutu is the tarring of Gutu – Kurai Road started a few years after independence and abandoned soon afterwards. The longest stretch of this road is found in Gutu Central and the Second Republic pledged to complete it within 18 months of September 2018.

It has not moved an inch. All that the contracted company did is to create a detour road which is now an eyesore, drop mounds of gravel into the road and disappear. The same happened with Gutu – Buhera Road and yet these are the only two roads that Government has endeavored to tar in Gutu since independence. Gutu – Buhera Road is only 57km while Gutu – Kurai is 100km.

Gutu–Kurai Road is a stone-throw away from Chitando’s rural homestead. It is inconceivable that Chitando with his huge influence in Cabinet and on President Mnangagwa cannot make representations for that road.

The logical conclusion is that he merely hasn’t the will power. Being an MP for Chitando is just a means to an end. He does not only take the people of Gutu for granted but has also learned the art of running a rural constituency; keep the electorate poor and give them food crumbs.

Obviously Chitando has no development strategy for Gutu Central and he doesn’t look bothered. Committed MPs must have five-year development strategies for their constituencies with input from all stakeholders.

Another worrying component in Gutu Central is political violence.

The Constituent has become one of the most violent in the country. Well organised Zanu PF youth allegedly receiving funding and instructions from the ruling party elites in the district have been causing mayhem particularly at Mpandawana Growth Point. 

Last year in September, rogue youth set up an illegal roadblock along Gutu – Roy Road and assaulted Nyasha Zhambe who died in hospital a few weeks later. Vehicles belonging to some Ministers from Gutu were at the scene of the roadblock. Well known aides of the Ministers actively participated in the violence that saw Zhambe losing his life.

No one has been arrested although Police has names of suspects. There is a notion that is difficult to dispute that Police is under instruction not to arrest any Zanu PF cadre for violence committed in the name of the party.

Last month the party youth revived an orgy of violence in which they beat up anyone seen in the growth point wearing yellow clothes. Some people were left for dead and Police again did not arrest anyone. Instead Gutu Police turned around and arrested victims of the violence who are now appearing at the local magistrates’ court.

There is fear of bloodshed in Gutu in the 2023 elections that are supposed to take place anytime from February.

Chitando has refuted his involvement or that of his aides in the violence. He also refuted allegations that he is funding the violence.

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