Walter Mswazie Correspondent
The year 2017 was action-packed politically, economically and, of course, socially for Masvingo Province. As the year ends, like all Zimbabweans, people here are overwhelmed by anxiety and expectations of what 2018 has in store for them.
A review of events for 2017 in Masvingo Province will, obviously, be dominated by Zanu-PF political highs and lows. This does not mean that the province did not have a number other highlights, both developmental and economic.
Developments on the political front kept the people of Masvingo Province captivated. Most of the political drama was taking place in the ruling party, Zanu-PF. Sharp differences derailed Zanu-PF in Masvingo in 2017, which saw senior provincial members either being dismissed or suspended.
The revolutionary party’s provincial chairperson Cde Ezra Chadzamira, bore the brunt, being suspended twice by the party’s then national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere. Kasukuwere ordered the province to hold fresh provincial executive elections for all positions, but come election day, party members were told that only the chairperson would be elected.
The elections, which were held in February, pitted Colonel Mutero Masanganise (Rtd) against Cde Chadzamira. Cde Chadzamira came out tops, polling an unassailable 12 000 against only 3 000 votes for Col Masanganise. But Kasukuwere returned to haunt Cde Chadzamira.
He ordered a rerun of the elections, arguing that incessant rains made some polling stations inaccessible. After the rerun, Cde Chadzamira emerged winner, polling a whopping 29 000 votes against less than 2 000 for Cde Masanganise. Cde Chadzamira was confirmed the legitimate leader of the party in the province.
Even former President of the ruling party, Cde Robert Mugabe, endorsed his provincial chairmanship during a Youth Interface Rally at Mucheke’s B Arena. But Kasukuwere was not done with him yet. He could not just stand Masvingo province under the leadership of Cde Chadzamira.
In October, he suspended Cde Chadzamira in controversial circumstances. This saw the G40 cabal gaining ground in the province, with indications that the factional elements led by Kasukuwere were determined to run the show.
Kasukuwere belonged to the G40 cabal and it turned out he wanted to install his man as the Masvingo party provincial chairperson with or without elections. As political events unfolded, former President Mugabe filled the vacant position of Minister of State for Provincial Affairs with the appointment of Dr Paul Chimedza.
At the same time, former Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi was moved to the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Armed with these new statuses, Dr Chimedza and Mzembi, who belonged to the G40 cabal and closely worked with Kasukuwere, went on the rampage in the province.
They unilaterally installed former acting party provincial chairman, Amasa Nhenjana as the provincial leader, with Dr Chimedza coming in as the interim vice-chairperson. But the interim executive failed to gain recognition. The party ended up with two provincial executives, one led by Nhenjana and the other led by Cde Chadzamira.
These would hold separate meetings, announcing counter-expulsions of members. In short, the situation in Zanu-PF in Masvingo had become unattainable. Masvingo also received a barrage of attacks from former First Lady Grace Mugabe for resisting the machinations of the G40 cabal.
As fate would have it, the factional politics pursued by Mrs Mugabe and her G40 cabal led to the fall of former President Mugabe after he dismissed his long-time ally, then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Two weeks after what was described as madness of the highest order, the army led by the then Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga (Rtd) intervened and successfully restored legacy.
President Mugabe resigned whereupon Cde Mnangagwa ascended to the presidency, appointing the “dean of governors” Senator Josaya Hungwe, as he is known, as Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs.
A number of politicians, including Mzembi, Dr Chimedza, Masvingo Urban legislator Dr Daniel Shumba and provincial political commissar Jappy Jaboon have since been expelled from the party.
The situation is now back to normal in Zanu-PF in Masvingo. Cde Chadzamira has reclaimed his rightful position as the provincial party chairperson, and unity now prevails in the party. Party members are more focused, and are strengthened by the resolve to win the harmonised elections next year.
On development, the completion and commissioning of Zimbabwe’s largest in-land dam, Tokwe-Mukosi, in May was one gigantic event that took place in Masvingo province in 2017. Former President Robert Mugabe commissioned the dam at its site in Chivi South, at a colourful ceremony in May.
Tokwe-Mukosi Dam is located at the confluence of the Tokwe and Mukosi rivers, and the dam straddles the boundary of Chivi and Masvingo South districts. With a height of 89,2 metres and storage of 1,8 billion cubic metres of water, the dam is the highest and the largest inland water body in Zimbabwe.
The main purpose of the dam is for irrigation and hydro-power generation, and construction. The dam will see the establishment of 25 000 hectares of irrigable land to benefit the province. According to the development plan, there will be an urban setting around the dam, tucked within the mountains near Ngundu Growth Point, and producing a scenic view.
Investors have started making inquiries, with a South African company having expressed interest in setting up a cable car system for tourism. Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is also planning to set up a game park around the multi-million dam, with some islands reserved for hospitality and tourism. The dam was about 72 percent full in May.
The other major development in Masvingo in 2017 was the launch of the Beitbridge-Harare Highway and Harare-Chirundu Highway dualisation project by Cde Mugabe. The nearly $2 billion project is expected to create about 300 000 jobs for the local people, with indigenous construction and engineering companies also expected to partake in the project.
An Austrian contractor — Geiger International — has won the tender, and equipment to commence the project has started arriving in the country. In the agriculture sector, Masvingo province also benefited immensely from Command Agriculture during the year under review, which saw farmers delivering more than 200 000 tonnes of maize grain to the Grain Marketing Board.
The programme, which was led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, addressed the food security challenges in the province, with most households deemed food secure. The City of Masvingo, with the tag of being the oldest town in Zimbabwe, recorded some highs in 2017, with council winning back about 100 vehicles that it had lost over a six year $3,5 million labour dispute with its employees.
The vehicles had been attached by the Deputy Sheriff after council had lost the case through a default judgement. The workers had been granted an arbitration award of $3,5 million in outstanding salary increase backdated to 2009 at the Labour Court.
Council appealed to the Constitutional Court for a right to be heard and the matter was referred back to the Labour Court, which ruled in the local authority’s favour. On service delivery, council procured earth moving machinery worth more than $400 000 for road rehabilitation and maintenance.
Masvingo General Hospital received a major boost in 2017 when Government finished the construction of a renal unit at the referral institution. The $100 000 dialysis machine has brought joy to renal patients in the province, as they no longer have to travel long distances to either Harare or Bulawayo, which offered the services.
On the low side, the province lost two of its top political icons within a few days during the year, who were both bestowed with the National Heroine status. Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs Cde Shuvai Mahofa died on August 15, while the late Vice-President Dr Simon Muzenda’s wife Mbuya Maud Muzenda passed away on August 21.
The two heroines were buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare. Mbuya Muzenda was a pillar of strength and stood by her husband despite the mounting pressure of the liberation struggle.
In September, a dark cloud also hung over the legal fraternity when Masvingo High Court Judge, Justice Garainesu Mawadze lost his wife, Locardia, in a road traffic accident near Mvuma. HIV prevalence remained at about 14 percent in the province, while the TB infection rate is said to be still high with default incidents also on the negative.
On the social front, the poplar circumcision season saw more than 2 000 males of Shangani origin in Chiredzi’s Muhlanguleni area under Chief Sengwe going under the knife as part of their tradition.
On the religious scene, a controversial Masvingo prophet Isaac Makomichi unleashed anti-small house prophesy where he claimed that a number of married men would be caught engaging in adultery during the year.
On showbiz, the reopening of the biggest bar in the region, Chigarapasi Beerhall in Chiredzi, was a popular event in the town. The beer hall, which is run by Chiredzi Town Council, had been closed earlier in the year, citing viability challenges. The council is now leasing the beerhall believed to be the biggest in Zimbabwe in terms of the square metres it covers.