As Zimbabwe gears up for the historic elections on July 30 this year, candidates from various political parties are engaged in an intense final campaign push to win votes. About 160 National Assembly hopefuls have thrown their names into the ring for 22 seats in the Mashonaland West province. In Chinhoyi, Zanu-PF candidate Engineer Last Taguma Sauramba will battle it out with MDC Alliance’s Dr Peter Mataruse and Everman Leslie Mhangwa of the People’s Rainbow Coalition among seven other contestants. In this interview, Eng Sauramba (LTS) speaks to our Mashonaland West Bureau Chief Sydney Kawadza (SK) on his vision and how he intends to make inroads into the opposition stronghold.
SK: Who is Engineer Last Taguma Sauramba and how is his background experience going to help turn around the fortunes of Chinhoyi?
LTS: I have served in Government for close to 20 years in the energy industry occupying positions in junior, middle and senior management levels. I have been the provincial manager for the Rural Electrification Agency in Mashonaland West province for many years now having earlier served as ZESA Kadoma district network manager (formerly District Manager). I have vast industrial and social experience derived from working across the length and breadth of Zimbabwe having served in Harare, Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces, which diverse experience will continue to benefit Chinhoyi. I am a family man and we are a Christian family of firm believers in God being the ultimate author of all in heaven and on earth. We are preachers of the Good News and contributors in cash and kind to furtherance of the word of God.
SK: Why do you think people who have voted for the MDC over the years can be swayed to choose a Zanu -PF candidate?
LTS: The people who voted for other candidates other than the Zanu-PF candidate in the past will definitely be swayed because the past terms that were held by the opposition have not benefited anyone including the staunchest of opposition supporters. These two terms of the incumbent’s reign have not yielded any development for Chinhoyi.
For instance, there are no sanitary facilities in Alaska and Shackleton, that is, Wards 14 and 15 respectively. Over the afore-stated terms of office, the incumbent has received Constituency Development Funds but its contribution to intended purposes of the fund, that is, improving livelihoods of the inhabitants of the constituency, has not been felt.
The communities have to take the lead in determining what needs to be attended to and as MP for Chinhoyi I will be up to the task since I am available to the community through many interfaces, and my envisaged Chinhoyi Development Trust will enhance this.
My family has partaken in various philanthropic initiatives in and around Chinhoyi. We are foster parents having adopted two children, as four months and nine months old toddlers, from orphanages in Makonde and Zvimba districts. These children are now at school going age at primary school level.
Also my family, has been visible in times of need of the community notably during bereavements since we have obliged to calls for assistance by bereaved families.
These families cross the political divide have called on us for assistance in terms of food, transports, and even coffins, in spite of different political inclinations. We have also met medical expenses of the underprivileged including funding for their consultation fees and medication.
We have also helped the under-privileged children in terms of enabling them meet their educational needs from primary level up to university level.
Victoria College, the private college that we run in Chinhoyi, has helped to this end. Both my wife and I have also partaken in spiritual nourishment of the community through preaching the word of God in various ministries and assemblies in and around Chinhoyi.
I have also helped fund some Division 2 soccer teams in Chinhoyi notably Chinhoyi FC (2011/2012) and Ola Academy (Alaska) (2017). I have also been involved with the youth in Chinhoyi constituency through my Youths in Arts initiatives mainly in the area of music. In this respect we have held a singing competition for youths across various genres with Zim-dancehall taking the lead, and other genres being Hip-hop, Mbira and Jazz.
These youth targeting initiatives are meant to arrest the drug abuse scourge bedevilling our society among youths. On the developmental front, led by my wife, we have availed some poultry projects to various beneficiaries as group schemes, and capacitating of small businesses/vendors notably selling second hand clothes. One of the poultry projects beneficiaries went to the extent of completing the construction of more rooms to her house. We have also repaired boreholes that had long broken down with one of them, a borehole in Ward 9, Mzari Extension, having broken down several years ago before we intervened.
The other boreholes we fixed are in Alaska and Shackleton. I have done all these development and social initiatives mainly in Chinhoyi constituency. I have funded have them on a period spanning several years now and I am convinced these interventions have made significant impact to my Chinhoyi community. Thus I am convinced the impact is significant enough to sway the opposition vote and fence sitter votes to Zanu-PF.
Besides the efforts our presidential candidate His Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa is exerting towards reviving the economy are swaying the vote in Zanu-PF’s favour since the electorate is now past protest voting, and is now voting for people who can deliver.
SK: How is your relationship with party cadres you defeated in the Zanu-PF primary elections?
LTM: Soon after a contest, however clear the contest might be, the losing candidates in most cases need time to heal and I believe as Zanu-PF party we are now way past healing time. Thus the relationship with my colleagues who contested the primaries against me is sound, with the candidate who came second taking the lead in coordinating my campaign activities. Zanu-PF is a party of mature individuals who live beyond personal gains, that is, interests of the party take precedence over everything else.
SK: Roads in urban areas have become a menace for residents. What is the length of the road network in the Chinhoyi urban constituency and what do you think is causing the current leadership to fail in maintaining and constructing the roads?
LTS: The length of Chinhoyi roads is approximately 282km. Some of the causes for lack of optimal road maintenance and retarded construction of roads can be attributed to the following;
i) Civil works, with roads construction being part of, are generally expensive and their status reflects the economic status of a country. For an economy that is not fully performing, road maintenance and new roads’ constructing are difficult without external grants. That’s why our Zanu-PF party is putting economic recovery at the fore of everything else through various initiatives being driven by the President, His Excellency E.D. Mnangagwa.
ii) Roads are supposed to be maintained using road user charges, toll fees, which are now being administered by ZINARA. The disbursements currently being given to Chinhoyi are inadequate to meet demand. As the economy develops as anticipated in the coming few years so shall the revenue accruing to ZINARA from road usage and the funds available for urban road maintenance.
iii) There is an opportunity for a partnership to do the required road works, which may bring in aspects of urban roads toll fees.
This needs careful consideration to ensure win-win situation for all stakeholders. Another alternative is to ensure a road levy which has been introduced and ring fenced is only be used for road works.
The above thus underscores the need for sourcing of funding from various stakeholders towards the funding of road development, besides government funding which comes in synchronism with macro-economic development.
SK: People are impatient with the slow housing delivery leading to some moving to undeveloped stands, what do you plan to do to correct the anomaly?
LTS: The anomaly of people moving to undeveloped stands can best be corrected through engagement of partners who can finance the construction of required services notably liquid waste management, water reticulation, and electrical reticulation to the stands. The stand beneficiaries will then be made to pay the partners through affordable terms spanning a long period at an agreed instalment rate.
There is also an opportunity to engage multi-national donor community to assist with funding for the required services. Service delivery has to improve in order for Chinhoyi to attain city status. This becomes a natural target. As the provincial capital of Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe’s bread basket, Chinhoyi has to lead in national development initiatives through mining, industrial, and agro-based production and value addition businesses.
This will provide another option through in turn feedback in to the infrastructure development of the province through government funding through Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) targeting service provision in the residential areas. In the interim, council will have to incrementally develop the areas which are not yet serviced.
SK: How many houses are you targeting for electrification? What has been the problem with the electrification of the houses?
LTS: I estimate the Chinhoyi numbers at +/-9000 units. As earlier posited the lack of funding through various partners has affected the provision of service to stands and electricity connections of houses is one such lacking service. I believe the under-performance of the national economy resulting in the lack of PSIP funding to cater for construction of electrical power lines has been a major handicap. There has also been challenges emanating from forex shortages affecting the availability of meters for service connections.
The latter challenge has been somewhat attended to through allowing the selling of electrical meters by registered vendors. Once again, making Chinhoyi and Mashonaland West province at large contribute significantly to the economy remains the sustainable solution to this challenge.
In the interim a hybrid approach of securing funding through beneficiaries’ contributions and partners who can then be paid back by the beneficiaries through lenient terms remains another option to be pursued.
SK: What are the major objectives of the Chinhoyi Development Trust?
LTS: The Trust shall be the conduit for developing Chinhoyi in terms of funding for infrastructure and service provision. Some donors may be uncomfortable dealing directly with Government agencies and this Trust shall proffer adequate ring-fencing and accountability.
Capacitating Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Chinhoyi through among other sources revenue raised through member subscriptions which revenue can be availed on revolving fund basis for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
SK: Water provision and reticulation is a challenge in Chinhoyi, how do you intend to deal with the challenge?
LTM: There is need to expand the current water reticulation and water treatment plants through a water augmentation project. In this case partners who can fund the project can be engaged to do the works while payment to the partner will be done later and over a longer period. Currently, optimisation of the available infrastructure is being done.
SK: And the vendors, pirate taxis and chaos in the CBD?
LTM: There is need for, first and foremost, availing of developed spaces for conducive operating for vendors and taxi operators.
There is need for engagement of the vendors and the taxi operators for an amicable and permanent solution through a win-win situation. Once this is done talk of enforcement of by-laws becomes unnecessary since there will be natural compliance by all stakeholders.
SK: Most industries in Chinhoyi are virtually dead, how do you intend to help in the creation of employment in Chinhoyi?
LTS: Central Government, through the initiatives being driven by the current Government around the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra, are taking the lead.
In the same vein, there is need for the local authority, Chinhoyi Municipality, to come up with an investment policy which will see an attraction of investors in the agro-processing and mineral beneficiation businesses since as earlier posited Chinhoyi is surrounded by a lot of farms and mines.
In this respect, there is need to foster the setting up of mining and agro-based industries across the entire value chain from inputs to value addition. Thus wheat and maize milling plants have to be established over and above mining smelters.
I will also prioritise the enforcement of plans to resuscitate operations at CSC, a company that used to be the biggest employer for Chinhoyi.