EDITORIAL COMMENT : Kanyemba: Time to fast-track development
Kanyemba on the Zambezi, situated where Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique meet, is one of the most undeveloped areas in the country.
Yet the area is endowed with abundant resources and is found in an excellent location suited for trade and tourism.
Kanyemba is now a town, though no much infrastructural development has taken place.
In some respects, Kanyemba is considered one of the oldest towns in Zimbabwe and certainly one of the oldest trading centres.
Just across the Zambezi and a kilometre downstream, is Zumbo, once the main entrepôt for those wishing to trade with the Mutapa Kingdom, and there is no reason why it cannot regain some of the status it has lost over the centuries.
And directly opposite is Luangwa in Zambia, a very modest small town, but with more development than on the south bank.
So there is already potential, especially as the headwaters of Lake Cahora Bassa, in a good year, can reach these three little towns.
Development and investment will not come overnight, but will not come at all unless Kanyemba is put on the map and work starts on connecting it to the world.
This is what Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has been doing.
Just recently, a high-powered Government delegation led by VP Chiwenga toured Kanyemba to assess development on the ground and opportunities the place can offer to both local and foreign investors.
For a start, it can become a border post on new trunk routes.
The route through Kanyemba can cut the distance from South Africa into Central Africa by 650km and the gap between the great lake to east and the vast wildlife area to the west is small enough to mean that any reasonable effort to use that route must centre on Kanyemba, Luangwa and Zumbo.
Of course, a route needs a bridge. But momentum for development of the area is being driven by the upgrading and tarring of the Mahuwe-Kanyemba Road, which will link the northern side of the Zambezi River — Zambia and Mozambique — via a three-way or Y-Bridge that will be constructed across the Zambezi River according to the master plan.
On Monday, Mbire Rural District Council chief executive Mr Claudius Majaya said plans were afoot to resume tarring Mahuwe-Kanyemba Road for over 40km after the rainy season as they intensify efforts to make the place easily accessible by tourists and investors who are in the meantime enduring about 191km of gravel road.
Besides making the place 650km shorter for those in freight business and tourists, the new link will also assist in unveiling more opportunities to be derived from the mighty Zambezi River for Zimbabwe.
It’s clear that some tourists are avoiding holidaying in the Kanyemba area because of lack of accommodation, an area that needs urgent attention given the interest the place has generated locally and internationally.
Tourism is obviously an industry that can start being built almost immediately in the Kanyemba area.
The vast wildlife area to the west, centred on the Mana Pools, and the Cahora Bassa lake to the east, along with one of the more attractive and accessible sections of the Zambezi actually at Kanyemba, is a resource that needs to be used.
Tourists using smaller boats can cruise while fishing and game viewing from Kanyemba up to Chirundu via some spectacular scenes.
This trading, travelling and commercial gap between large blocks of national park areas can be used.
There are plans for a first class golf course on over 100 hectares that will also house so many auxiliary services.
This structure has the potential to attract huge tournaments to be attended by champions from many countries who will be interested to have a feel of the Zambezi River, the spectacular Y Bridge and to experience the hospitality of the three nations — Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe at one go.
The Zimbabwean side provides flat lands and a reasonably cool temperature compared to the Zambian side that always experiences baking temperatures.
As such, a world-acclaimed facility that attracts the world’s rich and famous should be supported by facilities that can bring in tourists by air.
An airport does not have to be able to handle twin aisle airliners to be useful.
We are glad that Mbire RDC is already in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) for the construction of a suitable facility in Kanyemba.
Kanyemba, culturally, has something extra to offer.
The local population forms perhaps the smallest language group in Zimbabwe and while quite happy to learn other languages to communicate with neighbours and the world, also desires to keep its own language and culture, increasing the diversity that enriches Zimbabwe.
What we would like is tourists arriving in Victoria Falls, fly to Kariba and end their tour of the Zambezi River in Kanyemba before deciding to visit other states.
The design of Kanyemba is such that the place will be self-reliant when it comes to even food needed by hotels and lodges for their customers.
Through the efforts of VP Chiwenga, there is a 200ha irrigation scheme under development to be managed by the Agriculture Rural Development Authority (Arda) and we believe local communities should be accorded the opportunity to also work and fend for their families.
Surely, given that nearby areas such as Angwa and Mushumbi Pools are good for cattle ranching, we do not expect food for tourists to come over 400 kilometres from Kanyemba.
It is our hope that local farmers are going to be empowered and be major producers of the required products — meat and vegetables.
Some Arda estates in the entire Mbire District should up their game in preparation for major activities to take place in the district and work should start now to ensure locals play a leading role in supplying critical products to spearhead the development of their areas.
A community and area left alone for far too long now has an opportunity to join Zimbabwe’s development.