Govt’s rapid transformation sets Beitbridge on path  to a modern city Beitbridge Border Post has under gone a US$30 million upgrade. – File Picture

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau

THE Government and its partners have poured huge amount of  resources to transform the Beitbridge District post-independence and has set the border town on the path to evolution into a modern city.

At independence in 1980, the now upgraded town and border post resembled a growth point and a mere crossing point for travellers as well as regional and international cargo.

The population has grown from around 3 500 in the last two decades to around more than 200 000.

Herald’s Beitbridge Bureau Thupeyo Muleya (TM) had an interview with the district’s senior traditional leader Chief Tshitaudze (David Mbedzi) (CT) to reflect on the district’s development.

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TM: Zimbabwe is celebrating 44 years of independence. What notable developments or milestone projects have you witnessed as the community of Beitbridge?

CT: Before independence we were not getting quality services which have since been addressed or are being addressed post-independence. As a community we are grateful to the Government for the US$300 million border transformation. The ambiance of the border has improved especially during the Second Republic.

Some of the project’s spill-over and other civil works within the town are the construction of a new fire station, an animal quarantine, sewer oxidation dam, a landfill, Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (road upgrading), construction of 220 staff houses, and 11, 4 megalitre water reservoir.

TM: Besides the state of the art infrastructure that came with the border transformation, are there any other positive spill over benefits to the community here?

CT: To a large extent yes. At least 1 600 Zimbabweans have been hired during the course of the project including those from our community who were employed on a casual basis and some on permanent basis.

There was also the skills transfer aspect where some youths or community members gained life skills to even make a living post the project winding up. Some can live off welding, brick laying, and some are now electricians and so on. We also appreciate that the coming in of more construction projects in the district which is addressing the issues of unemployment. The creation of more clinics and schools will also create teaching and nursing jobs.

TM: Development comes in various forms and earlier you mentioned deficiencies in service delivery. What has changed now?

CT: The provision of quality health services and access to education is critical for any community to move forward. As such, we are happy that more schools both primary and secondary have been built in the area post-independence with the support of Government and its partners. In the pre-independence era, we had fewer learning facilities and children had to go to other districts to access education. Our wish is to have at least one secondary school if not two in all the 21 wards in Beitbridge. At the same time, we appreciate efforts to build more ECD schools to reduce walking distances by infants.

We are also happy that since independence, we now have more health facilities.

The coming in of the devolution funds and other funding models have created room for development. On the provision of water, we appreciate the drilling of more solarised boreholes and the promotion of piped water schemes.

The schemes have resulted in the expansion of horticultural activities which will go a long way in improving the general upkeep of people from the household level. The upgrade from a growth point, to a town and now a municipality is a game changer, which has attracted notable investment in Beitbridge.

TM: In terms of transport, logistics, and communication, what has been happening in those sectors?

CT: The upgrading of the Beitbridge-Harare Road and the widening of the 5,1 km road linking the border and major highways to Bulawayo and Harare is a welcome development for us. We also appreciate the continued maintenance and rehabilitation of roads by Government and other roads authorities which has seen a relative increase and continued presence of public transporters servicing the rural parts of the district. It is also pleasing that we now have our own licensed community radio station (Lotsha FM) broadcasting the TshiVenda language to educate, inform, entertain and raise awareness on a number of issues. Mobile telecommunication coverage has drastically improved and fewer people, mainly those living in borderlines with South Africa and Botswana are still experiencing glitches. Government is however already rolling services in those areas. There is also marked improvement on the national television transmission signal although it needs to be expanded to ensure total coverage.

TM: Are there any outstanding development areas that you have noted and you would want the Government to attend to?

CT: We appreciated the tremendous progress we have seen. However, we still need more facilities, like boreholes, tarred roads, schools and clinics, more piped water schemes for schools and communities at business centres to address access to water challenges. We need more schools and clinics in resettlement areas where the communities are already building such facilities from their own resources.

There is a need to invest in wildlife conservation.

The people should also be empowered so they can start income generating projects. We hope we can also get help to increase livestock production and compete effectively on markets.

TM: Government has been rolling out the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) which has seen communities also playing their part in developmental projects. What can the community do to help improve service delivery?

CT: Everyone’s effort is critical on national or community development matters. I advise community members to play their part and not always wait for the Government assistance. Be pro-active. Community members should embrace empowerment projects.

We should also come up with home grown solutions to our local problems. For example, we can mould bricks to build a school or clinic or provide labour or small material resources like cement among others.

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