Isdore Guvamombe Assistant Editor
The Angolan pitta bird that comes seasonally to breed and stay for five months then fly back, the vast hunting area in Usanga Usanga, Masawu and Masoka, the salt pan that attracted Munhumupata to leave Great Zimbabwe for the north, the vast uranium deposits, the Zambzei River frontage, tourism, prospects of agriculture, and the three countries border post, will be bedrock of the new Kanyemba Town.
North of Harare, at the border of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique is a wrap of land obliquely referred to by local people as “The Three Corners.”
Kanyemba in Zimbabwe, Luangwa in Zambia and Zumbo in Mozambique are the three districts that share boundaries, hence the Three Corners. Suffice to say, the people here share a lot and indeed sit on a lot on untapped potential.
Here, again, three rivers share the water, the Mwanzamutanda and Luangwa rivers poor into the mighty Zambezi in its final leg to Cabora Basa and the Indian Ocean.
The Government of Zimbabwe has decided to build the new town of Kanyemba that will be the nerve centre of development in Mbire and Guruve districts and beyond. The socio, political and economic value of this new town cannot be downplayed. It is indeed going to be the game changer.
The road to Kanyemba leads due north of Harare. For over 300km it runs between vast farmlands, their homes set far back out of sight behind acre upon acre of intermittent maize and tobacco fields in Mazowe, Concession, Mvurwi, Guruve and Mbire.
Thereafter, three times the road winds its way between communal lands dotted with clay-walled huts and tiny fenced-off fields, then it straightens and flows through former commercial farms in Horseshoe then Bakasa on the edge of the Zambezi Escarpment.
Before Bakasa, is the sacred shrine at Tuwuyu Tusere (The 8 Baobabs) where the historial Nyatsimba Mutota or Munhumutapa died on his way to Kanyemba to conquer the salt pan on the edge of Zambezi River and grow his empire’s economy. Adjacent to that is Negomo School, named after Mutota’s son Negomo Mupunzagutu.
Thereafter the road stretches unforgivingly north.
On the side of the road, men hover by the side of whitewashed shops and beerhalls in their faded formal clothes. A few stagger after drinking one too much of the home brewed and conventional beer. Probably with a cigarette of mbanje as an additive.
Women saunter through the grass verge, children at their heels, toddlers clasped on their backs, firewood or water buckets balancing delicately on their heads.
On rare occasions you would have come across a spirit medium clad in black regalia that exude an aura of sacred spirituality.
Jam-packed buses, tractors, trucks, ox or donkey-drawn carts and cyclists dash along or crawl between the villages and the business centres and farms.
At Bakasa, just as the road starts to descend it makes a wide sharp curve around the edge of the Zambezi Escarpment, and lo and behold! The Zambezi Valley spreads out yawning flat and wide, north, north and further north, east and west. Vast! Wide.
On a clear day, the Zambezi River sparkles from a vantage point of the escarpment, some 150km away. And then, within 15km, the road altitude falls by a whopping 6 000 metres! The break in altitude is felt sharp and critically as it announces your arrival at Mahuwe Business Centre.
At Mahuwe, the gravel road begins and the journey slows down. Crawl! The heat is fierce, remorseless, baking and caking earth.
About 2 km east of Mahuwe lies the Mutota Ruins, a replica of the Great Zimbabwe stone-without mortar monuments that were left halfway built at the death of Munhumutapa. It’s a tourist attraction.
As the road runs north to Mushumbi Pools, the great, stout hunches of the mountains rise up blunt, blue and grey behind. Four large rivers, Dande, Hunyani (Manyame), Kadzi and Angwa (Hangwa) drain from the escarpment into the Zambezi Valley and villages cling on to their banks and those of their tributaries. Away from these rivers and villages, Mbire is wild with pale sharp grass, dense with thin contorted trees and scattered towering baobabs, providing big business for timber.
Mushumbi Pools is where Dande and Hunyani (Manyame) rivers confluence. Huge crocodile infested pools give mush touristy sight, while fishing and riverine farming are abound.
About 10 km after Mashumbi Pools, small dotted homesteads pronounce Kemanzambara Village and on its eastern verge of the road lies the petrified-forest. Here trees turned into stones. Stone and not wood trees, lie stubbornly on the ground, with their stumps and trunks.
Villagers here say their trees’ story is older than history. Trees turned into stone, hard stones. If it was fossilization it was strange one.
Just by the side of the road to Kanyemba, one will see a sign directing you to the Petrified Forest. Follow the directions and you will soon find yourself being enthusiastically taken through something older than history, a multifarious array of trees that turned into stones. Yes, stones!
Here, a large collection of petrified trees, their stumps and trunks lie scattered as a reminder of pre-historic events that defy magazine diction hyperbole.
A secondary forest of trees has grown from the ashes of what used to be a prehistoric forest but has failed to dampen the spirit of the trees that turned into stone.
Many Zimbabweans do not know that God and the ancestors bestowed upon this country such a historical gem that is worth visiting and cherishing. God’s grandeur!
Thereafter, you come to Hangwa (Angwa) River and it becomes a jungle affair.
To the West towards Mana Pools, the Angolan Pitta bird, comes to mate and breed in Zimbabwe for five months and fly back around May. This is a rare spectacle. How the birds chose Zimbabwe as the safest breeding place, only God knows.
From here to Kanyemba is wild and busy.
This is a place of wild animals where it is uncommon to see baboons preen each other’s glossy coats or an elephant nudge its calf with a hind foot under a huge baobab tree or a lion sweep through the grass.
After crossing Yirira River one comes across Usanga Usanga forest, forever teeming with wildlife and professional hunters from especially Texas, United States of America, favour this hunting spot.
To the right is Dande East Hunting Concession, and here wildlife is teeming above uranium and methane gas deposits. While uranium needs international rules and regulation to exploit, it still remains a resources Zimbabwe is proud of.
In Kanyemba, the salt pen, the flat land for irrigation, fishing camps hotels and lodges give business sense.
National Parks and Wildlife Authority, through the Mbire District Council each year, from March to November, put on tender a hunting quota for wild animals for from elphant to gnu and at times lions for this swathe of land up to Kanyemba. Professional hunters pay huge money in one of the world’s fastest growing industries.
The Zambezi River which for decades is crossed by dug-out canoes give credence to the need for engine powered boats. Investment if a ferry is ideal.
When all is said and done, Kaneymba could be the greatest gateway to the north of Zimbabwe outside Kariba and Chirundu. The prospects of proper border post are exciting as Kanyemba is the shortest route to Lusaka Zambia.
The decision by the Government to build a town at Kanyemba is not ill–advised. It is the best thing ever to happen. This town will be a game changer in the region. Let the town be built.