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Beitbridge West: Zim’s island of poverty amid plenty

Beitbridge West has fine cattle breeds including the Tuli which is indigenous to the district.

A DAY before schools opened for the 2024 first term the newly sworn-in Beitbridge West Member of Parliament (MP) Thusani Ndou received a call from an anonymous caller.The caller was precise and to the point.

“Tomorrow schools open. We have failed to secure a minibus to ferry our children to Malala Secondary School. We need your assistance. The person who used to do this is now charging R500 per child per month and we cannot afford, is there any help we can get? We are stuck,” the caller, recorded by Ndou, said.“I am from Umzingwane village. The nearest secondary school is Malala, 15km away. Our village has children starting Form One this year and may be discouraged to continue with school given the distance.” 

Beitbridge’s Umzingwane village is about 30km west of the border town in an area rich with klinker, a mineral used in cement production.The nearest primary school to the village is Mtetengwe, a stone’s throw away from Vice-President Kembo Mohadi’s homestead.To its west, Umzingwane village borders vast multi-million-dollar thriving citrus estates which include Benfer, Denylinian, Cawood, Bishopstone, Jam Farm and Shamba Yethu which employ residents from the village.

North-west of Umzingwane village along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Highway is the renowned Bubye Valley Conservancy, home to the world's big five with several hundreds of prides of lions.

This and other conservancies spin millions of dollars from safari hunters each year.Bubye Valley Conservancy at one time boasted having put up for sale in excess of 400 lions.It has, like the Serengeti in East Africa, hosted famous wildlife television filmmakers.

It will take a matter of days for all these huge money spinners to build 30 schools if they opt to, taking corporate social responsibility to the letter.But as things stand Umzingwane village, like many others where residents live from hand to mouth while children travel long journeys on foot to school, is a troubled village in the land of plenty.

Located near Botswana and South Africa, Beitbridge West has great potential.It has the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservancy running across the three countries and shared activities like the Tour DeTuli which expose the area to the world. Beitbridge West has fine cattle breeds including the Tuli which is indigenous to the district.

It also has its historic treasure being the entry point of settlers of the British South Africa Company which later established Rhodesia, which is modern-day Zimbabwe.Moreover, one of Africa’s biggest rivers, the Limpopo passes through Beitbridge West giving potential for riverside developments including unexploited water ventures which await sound leadership to explore.

Entering the realm of politics as a newly-elected MP, for Ndou, his election was some exhilarating experience.But no sooner than he had relaxed was he faced with the stark realities of the constituency he represents.This, precisely, was a rude awakening to what plagues his new jurisdiction.

The wake-up call from a villager in Umzingwane by and large reflects what is obtaining on the ground in Ndou’s constituency.“The situation I am talking about reflects throughout the constituency.  There are few schools and these are far apart. This is the reason we have many school dropouts, children abandoning school to go to South Africa. The distances discourage children.

“We have rugged roads that need attention now. We need schools closer to villages, tertiary colleges, irrigation schemes and we want communal people benefiting from the large Zhovhe Dam,” said Ndou.

Education and communication, whether by phone or road network are some of the primary challenges that greeted Ndou, Zanu PF’s fourth MP for the area after independence.He polled 4 929 votes, an 88,81% victory against Blesing Brendan Dube an independent who got 366 votes and Thoriso Moyo of Zapu who had 255 votes. Morgan Ncube of the Nelson Chamisa-led CCC was barred by his handlers.

Ndou came after Mohadi, Metrine Mudau and former Home Affairs deputy minister Ruth Maboyi in that order, all who left the constituency with two boarding secondary schools at Zezani and Tongwe.

At other secondary schools, children rent rooms at homes near the school which exposes the girl child.“It is embarrassing that we have such rich estates and such poor communities around them. This is why we cannot stop poaching, theft of fences, highway robberies and stocktheft because we have those with and those without,” a local businessman from Mtetengwe Elias Chibi said.

“With proper engagement the commercial farmers can build the school needed without feeling anything. If anything at all they will feel good. A cement company extracted klinker from Umzingwane village for many years but there is nothing to show for it. Hundreds of tourists visit conservancies around us, in our area but we have nothing,” said Chibi.He said the new MP had a task to revisit a contract between Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway Company which adopted Mtetengwe Primary School which had been neglected for long.A farmer, agricultural extension worker and war veteran from Beitbridge West Opheuos Ndlovu said Ndou had a mammoth task to ensure his constituents has adequate grazing.

A new wave of farm reallocation has eaten away massive grazing areas for the three-tier resettlement pattern whose laws state that they cannot be changed.“People are building homes in grazing areas which is not allowed, Ndou has a large task at hand and he needs the support of the law,” said Ndlovu.The call by the unidentified caller from Umzingwane village could be one of the many Ndou will be receiving in the next five years as villagers anticipate being rescued from abject poverty characterised by a massive shortage of schools in the area.

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