Thupeyo Muleya Interview
Government has moved a gear up in rolling out devolution across the country, with numerous meetings and initiatives to lay the foundation for this noble initiative having been held. Our Beitbridge Bureau Chief Thupeyo Muleya (TM) speaks to Beitbridge Paramount Chief Vho-Stauze (David Mbedzi) on his views and dreams on devolution.
TM: There has been much talk on Government rolling out the devolution programme from grassroots to national level. What do you think should be the role of traditional leaders in promoting or implementation of this programme?
CS: I think as traditional leaders, we should play an important role especially in our communities as we stay with the people in our respective communities. The people in rural areas are many compared to urban areas so if the Government gives us that opportunity we won’t disappoint as we are the voice of the voiceless.
TM: What are you doing as traditional leaders to make sure devolution is a great success?
CS: We are trying to talk to the Government, Beitbridge Rural District Council (BBRDC) and the municipality of Beitbridge to give local people an opportunity to secure jobs within the district and province.
As traditional leaders in Beitbridge we are united and we want to see Beitbridge develop through the human capital of local people, we cannot have our children being excluded from local opportunities and we say nothing for us without us and we are encouraging schoolchildren to be educated as it is critical for our youths to study hard and apply for the posts for sustainable develop of our community.
TM: Which areas do you feel will improve in Beitbridge under a fully devolved economy?
CS: We need help in this drought season. It is very dry. Our livestock is dying mainly because there are no pastures and no water, so we need stock feed so that we can save our animals we also need vaccines and dipping chemicals to support the communal farmers. Boreholes are running dry due to drought so we need the deepening of these boreholes because the water table has gone down and in addition, most roads are in a bad state and navigating through them has become a nightmare and I feel we should engage local institutions like District Development Fund (DDF) which must be capacitated to rebuild these roads.
I think we should also utilise the natural resources we have in our communities to develop ourselves so in a way we must be supported to build our capacity and be allowed to lead in development not to be told what to do as if we are brain-dead. Beitbridge has vast mineral and natural resources among them coal, diamonds, gold, Mashonzha (Mopani worms), baobab fruits and good soil for citrus crops in addition we have dams whose water we must use for irrigation.
Further, we are also short of secondary schools that have state-of-the-art science and computer laboratories which is bad. This deficiency must be addressed with the urgency it deserves. Our clinics are very few and cannot sustain over 200 000 people under our district.
TM: How can communities participate in the economic development programmes in their areas?
CS: I think there is a need to establish professional committees from grassroots level to deal with different areas highlighted above. We need to properly plan and assemble the right people with the right mind set to carry our vision forward, but we also need to do a skills audit so that we know how to deploy the human capital and in areas where we are found wanting we must train people.
TM: What challenges are the communities facing and as traditional leaders which areas do you feel should be a priority under devolution?
CS: Food security is the first issue, meaning we need to irrigate, we must also look at the health needs of our people because we need a healthy people to deliver development so the upgrading of rural health centres is critical and establishing another hospital in the district is key because currently the Beitbridge hospital is also overwhelmed by the transit population.
There is no information especially in rural areas. Some of the challenges are that as a community it may be hard to welcome change, but if we are given a chance to talk to the community we can face those challenges.
TM: Devolution in the eyes of some, is viewed as a political programme. As a traditional leader what is your impression on this concept?
CS: I can’t comment on what people say, they are entitled to their own opinions, but as a traditional leader I think it’s a programme which caters for everyone given that the issue of devolution is captured in the Constitution so it can’t be called a political project it’s a national agenda.
TM: What role should Government and traditional leaders and development agencies play in the roll out of the devolution concept?
CS: We should work together if we want to make this initiative a great success. People should put differences aside whether political or otherwise and work for the community. We shouldn’t waste energy judging each other. Let’s have people embracing team work and you will realise that all programmes will take off and be completed successfully. In my humble view, I feel that as traditional leaders we are the front runners here and should play a big role in the process (devolution) to ensure that the communities are also involved. No project will succeed without the buy-in and active participation of members of a specific community.
TM: According to you, what are the immediate needs by the communities in Beitbridge district at the moment?
CS: We need a robust plan to address infrastructure, agriculture (irrigation infrastructure development and investment), roads, health care facilities, school (primary, secondary and colleges), electrification of business centres and schools among other key social amenities. There is also a need to re-open closed mines so that we grow our economy and address issues of unemployment in the community.
TM: What has been done at community level by Government and traditional leaders to implement the concept?
CS: So far there is nothing according to me. I just read about it (devolution) in the news. Our biggest challenge is that people tend to undermine us as traditional leaders just because they are skilled not knowing that there are so many ideas we can bring which can develop our community.
In addition, lack of information is a hindrance to community development initiatives. We have not been formally told about devolution as traditional leaders, so our people do not know about it. We encourage the relevant departments should do their job in order for us to appreciate this scenario.
TM: Considering that Zimbabwe is bordering with South Africa where devolution is a success. What can Zimbabweans learn from her neighbour?
CS: I think we should really learn a lot of things from South Africa on how they implement their projects. For instance if the project is being rolled out in Limpopo province, you will find that the people who are working there are locals (from the respective province) and maybe with the help of a few skilled personnel from other provinces.
If locals are the implementing team on local projects, their main task is to uplift their communities. They also know the local culture. So it’s easy to work in that environment and if that’s the case. You will find desirable results.