Thupelo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
URBAN development and the provision of quality services to citizens has been a perennial headache for most governments and local authorities across the globe.
The quest to collaborate on a number of service and economic delivery issues has seen many local authorities either in an urban or rural set ups entering twinning arrangements.
This helps authorities in terms of peer review and implementing harmonised systems to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Such an initiative is envisaged as one that can bring the fraternal twins in the form of Beitbridge Town, north of the Limpopo, in Zimbabwe and Musina Town, south of the Limpopo, in South Africa to an even growth in terms of people-centred services.
Development patterns in the twin towns are different, if one is to look into the globalisation dream of having the two as a single city when it comes to urban renewal and resilience.
In general terms, although Beitbridge town has been developing rapidly in terms of infrastructure and property in the last decade, it still has problems when it comes to service delivery, infrastructure and water pollution issues.
Musina has its own fair share of problems, but has been doing fairly well in addressing them.
This scenario has brought in a general consensus among experts and all the well-meaning citizens that the two towns must work together to ensure that they grow on the same wavelength.
Essentially, these (towns) can be viewed as one urban development centre separated by a river (the Limpopo), a bridge and a border post with similar challenges on service delivery, infrastructure and pollution.
Beitbridge is Zimbabwe Government’s cash cow, while Musina plays a critical role in terms of international trade for South Africa.
Both towns are moving towards modernisation into medium cities (a medium city would have abundant services, but not as many as a large city), though unfortunately, Beitbridge town is lagging behind in some areas while the South Africans seem to be getting everything right.
Dusty streets and roads are common in Beitbridge while Musina has been moving at lightning speed in addressing such areas.
Already, other countries in Sadc are now avoiding the use of Beitbridge Border Post due to the unavailability of ideal basic services, coupled with the deplorable state of key infrastructure.
The population in Zimbabwe is increasing in general with some people moving to small towns and cities.
It is understood that population growth in Beitbridge is driven by its proximity to South Africa and location at one of the busiest inland ports in Sadc. A closer look at the two towns shows that they share the same burden when it comes to handling the transit population.
An estimated 14 000 people in transit access the two countries daily through the same towns with an estimated population of 70 000. Further, the numbers have been increasing by 10 000 annually due to several push and pull factors.
According to Beitbridge Business Association chairman, Mr Nkululeko Milidi, there are a lot of areas in which the two councils may collaborate to steer economic growth.
“There are quite a lot of challenges for both towns to match economically on a win-win basis. Firstly, on the home front we have health issues for instance our sewer system needs upgrading,” said Mr Milidi.
“There are also national policy issues that need review to steer progress, for instance, the repatriation of foreign currency dividends, should they wish to invest in our town, issues of taxation and other charges which seem to be levied on our side only, and attending to issues relating to the free trade area.
“On the South African side, these are minimal though they need to address border queues and treat travellers with respect and also respect transport system bilateral arrangements.
“In terms of business, we can take advantage and bring it further to our doorsteps entities like second-hand vehicle sales, Asian retail, and wholesale shops and other essential services”.
Beitbridge town clerk Mr Loud Ramakgapola said they were working on a twinning agreement with Musina.
“We want to twin Musina and explore areas of common interest and currently are working on trying to bring Musina Municipality onto the table for a draft MOU before we tie up things,” he said.
“We will also engage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe for guidance.
“The other area we are looking at working together is the Special Economic Zone. You will realise that both towns have been given that status by their governments and we want to explore how we can work together on that aspect”.
Mr Ramakgapola continued: “We understand Musina has another partnership with Makhado Municipality on the Special Economic Zones and for us, this is an opportunity to share common areas of economic development with Musina. Both of us are at the same stage which is the inception stage of the Special Economic Zone”.
He said the two towns share the Limpopo River which they should leverage on to realise socio-economic development benefits.
According to the town clerk, Limpopo province generally has a shortage of water though it is in abundance in Zimbabwe from various water bodies, among them the Zhovhe Dam.
“If we come up with the right agreements, Beitbridge can be a centre of supply of water to Limpopo Province of South Africa. However, this depends on who between us and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority will run this project that could be a big forex earner for the municipality.
“In the same vein, as a municipality, we are working on promoting the river frontage. We want to see the economic use of the river frontage.
“Already, we are looking for investors in the hospitality industry who can develop lodges, crocodile farming, a golf course and some beach sport along the river frontage,” said Mr Ramakgapola.
He said the town had investment opportunities in areas including shopping malls, business complexes, hospitality, light and heavy industries.
The official said one contractor had already been appointed to construct a shopping mall and ground-breaking will be done soon.
He said the mall will be a game-changer for Beitbridge town.
“We are encouraging other investors to look at mall development as opposed to small individual shops. At the same time, we are working on the Highway thoroughfare where we want to attract the top of the market investors.
“So far, two top brand companies have shown interest in the Highway thoroughfare and are sure we should in the next 12 months see big changes in the town,” said Mr Ramakgapola.
The town clerk said they had also lined up a number of infrastructure development companies in the town.
These, he said would include the construction of water reservoirs, a fire station, upgrading water and sewer reticulation systems and construction and rehabilitation of roads.
Mr Ramakgapola said the town needs a massive capital injection to attend to water, sewer and roads.
“In the next two to five years, we should deliberately work on these two service delivery areas to make our town the true face of Zimbabwe.
“Further, we need to invest in the ‘yellow equipment’.
“That is the acquisition of a grader, TLB/back loader, an excavator, tippers, motorised jetting machine, compressor tippers, and all related road equipment,” he said.
Like any story of separates, twins’ time will tell when the two towns will start moving on the same wavelength with a shared vision.
The difference in funding models where South Africa operates with a decentralised funding model for capital projects and Zimbabwe still uses the centralised system, which often results in delays or failure to implement capital projects.
Many travellers who frequent both towns will bear witness that something is amiss in the growth of the two fraternal twins when one compares infrastructure and economic development aspects.
Since the turn of the millennium, Musina has managed to lure investment with the construction of many state-of-the-art buildings and shopping complexes.
On the other side of the river, Beitbridge has only the Zesa Pension Fund complex to show and the recently closed 140-bed hotel funded by the National Social Security Authority.
The hotel which was being leased by the Rainbow Tourism Group closed doors before actualisation due to viability issues.
Hotels have been closing at a rapid pace in Beitbridge in the last three years, while accommodation business is booming south of the Limpopo River.
In June 2016, South Africa launched a logistics hub in Musina which is set to ease the cost of doing business and promote regional and international trade among Sadc.
The hub is a brainchild of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and is a culmination of a partnership between, Lion Share, Burbey Group, Barloworld, Mac, and Transnet.
Under the new order, goods will be shipped by rail from Durban and then offloaded to trucks at Under the new order, goods will be shipped by rail from Durban and then offloaded to trucks at Musina Intermodal Terminal (MIT), for further transportation to Zimbabwe and other countries north of the Limpopo River.
Logistics for goods destined for Durban and overseas markets will be transported in the same manner.
Despite having just three rail tracks at the local Transnet station, in Musina, South Africa has managed to capitalise on the opportunity.
On the other side, Zimbabwe has failed to transform Beitbridge into a dry port considering that the local railway station has tracks that can carry at least 21 trains at any given time.
It is sad to note that besides Musina and Beitbridge lying on the Africa Union’s (AU) North-South corridor, the latter still lags behind on developmental issues though both governments are milking the same transit cow.