Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Sustainable urban development is one of the top priorities for many governments worldwide. The transformation of social, economic, cultural and political structures in society are some of the key factors towards achieving development.
The quest to have improved urban dwellings and sprucing up of underdeveloped port (border) towns has seen the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa elevating the status of Beitbridge town to a municipality.
Prior to the latest development, life has mainly been a pendulum swinging from one end to another for the Beitbridge community, but proffering no significant improvement, when one seriously looks at people-centred service delivery and developments.
In short, this has been a tale of many intentions without action since the year 1980.
However, the year 2006 was a turning point for the Beitbridge folk, when Government upgraded the border post to a fully-fledged town.
This was implemented under the auspices of the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP), which sought to give Beitbridge a facelift and transform the area into a medium city.
The programme (NEDPP) came with massive civil works projects including; the construction of 16 blocks of flats to house 64 families mainly middle class civil servants, 250 core houses for home ownership, 52 F14 houses for civil servants, road dualisation, upgrading of water supply and sewer infrastructure in the town.
In addition, it also provided for the establishment of other institutional facilities, namely; a hospital, primary school, secondary school, civic centre, Government composite office block, modern truck inn, shopping complex, a five-star hotel, an aerodrome and the upgrading of the border post to meet world-class standards.
A six-member commission was then set up in 2006, to superintend on delinking of the urban and rural set ups and the sharing of assets, the delimitation of urban and rural boundaries, identifying capital projects for the border town and also to come up with an administrative structure and to work with the rural district council in addressing other cross-cutting issues.
Their tenure expired in 2008 when a new town council headed by the late Dr Sipho Singo was put in place.
Since then, the town has made tremendous growth in terms of infrastructure and service delivery, with issues of intermittent water cuts and sewer burst becoming a thing of the past.
Residents have hailed the current council led by town clerk Mr Loud Ramakgapola for a job well done and this has managed to cultivate a culture of expeditious payment of rates and services.
In recognition of such success and rapid growth in the last decade, Government elevated the town to a municipality on March 9.
According to the town clerk (Mr Ramakgapola), the development was long overdue.
“We are very excited with this achievement. This means that we can now manage state lands, title deeds and increase property value,”he said.
“As we continue with the Beitbridge transformation initiative, we are looking at setting up more shopping complexes, including one behind ZB Bank.
“In that same vein, we seek to increase street lights, modernising most buildings in the CBD and allocating undeveloped business stands in the same area to serious investors”.
Mr Ramakgapola said other projects include the greening of the town, modernising the bus terminus, upgrading the road network and accelerating housing development.
So far the Government has commissioned a $40 million water treatment plant to improve water supplies to the 70 000 residents and an estimated 13 000 daily transit population.
Beitbridge Paramount Chief David Stauze called on the municipality to urgently attend to issues of water and sanitation.
He said the Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company must speed up the construction of a new substation to power properties in the western part of the town and industries. He said the area has been without electricity longer than necessary.
“This is a welcome development, where Government is making a serious statement about transforming our town into a modern city. You will note that Beitbridge is the face of Zimbabwe to those people entering the country from South Africa.
“To achieve meaningful development, I want to urge the municipality to attend to issues of water and sanitation, upgrade the road network and Dulivhadzimo Stadium and construct more schools, colleges and vocational training centres for the youth,” said Chief Stauze.
He challenged the city fathers to come up with investor friendly policies to promote the area’s economic growth.
Former Beitbridge urban councillor and spokesperson for the Combined Residents, Ms Patricia Ndlovu, said the town’s infrastructure needed to go under serious upgrading programme.
“We need to move with time. We need traversable roads, in addition, the council must follow up on some capital projects initiated around 2008 which include the greening.
“There is need to attend to issues of accountability and cooperate governance to promote investment in this town.
“It is also very critical for the Zimbabwe Republic Police and municipal police to create a secure environment for properties and businesses,” she said.
Ms Ndlovu said there was a strong need for Government to avail funds for the completion of most projects initiated under the NEDPP, but were stalled by resources shortages.
She said most of the projects had started succumbing to wear and tear due to neglect.
Chairperson of the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) in Beitbridge Mr Laddie Gamanya said the local authority should consider investing in a bigger container depot with better handling facilities and non-hazardous environment.
A container depot is used for conducting physical examinations of commercial cargo for either import or export.
The current facility only accommodates 24 haulage trucks at any given time, though an estimated 500 pass through the border post daily, most of these going through the container depot.
“We are looking forward to more paved surfaces, be it in the CBD or residential areas to manage issues of pollution mainly from fine dust.
“It will also be ideal for Beitbridge to have more institutions to cater for higher and tertiary education like polytechnic colleges among others,” said Mr Gamanya.
He said it was important for corporates and development players to engage in infrastructure development initiatives in Beitbridge as a way of ploughing back to the community.
Senator for Beitbridge constituency Cde Tambudzani Mohadi said people should engage in private public-partnerships with the local authority to promote both social and economic development.
“The town is growing and this requires Government, municipality and the community to pool resources together and build a modern city,” said senator Mohadi.
“We must start working on expanding the current referral hospital and construct more primary health care facilities in this town.
“The few institutions we have are overstrained by both the ever increasing local and transit population due to the town’s economic activity and proximity to South Africa.
“In addition, we need to reopen the major hotels, which closed two years ago. We can’t have a town with limited accommodation facilities”.
She said the town also needed a rehabilitation centre to cater for drugs and substance addicts which were increasing in the town.
Beitbridge Business Association (BBA) chairperson Mr Nkululeko Milidi said; “The city fathers must expeditiously complete the street and suburbs naming exercise to meet modern urban dwelling standards.
“We also encourage them to attend to issues of town planning, as businesses our feeling is that we should be having uninformed structures at zoned business centres or malls.
“It is very critical that we do things in an orderly manner if we are to realise our dream city.
“In addition, I want urge people to spruce up their properties, either homes or businesses by refurbishing or greening and paving,”said Mr Milidi.
Only time will tell whether the Beitbridge City dream remains a fairy tale or will turn into a living reality.