Hauna Growth Point in Mutasa district, Manicaland, is struggling to recover its lost glitter.
By OWN CORRESPONDENT
Tucked away in the easternmost part of Zimbabwe, two to three kilometres from the border with Mozambique, deep in agriculturally-rich Honde Valley, Hauna sits right in the centre of the scenic Eastern Highlands.
Once a promising centre with the potential to become a tourist hub for its outlying scenic landscape, Hauna is slowly folding its arms as if not to welcome visitors at all.
Hauna started as a business centre which grew rapidly to a commercial scale before it was awarded growth point status, paving the way for developing a rural town.
It had become a flourishing commercial centre with great potential for industrial growth.
An aerodrome where small planes landed at the business centre has been neglected and reduced to a grassy car park.
The meandering breathtaking main road to Hauna, which branches off the highway to Nyanga from Mutare, is badly in need of attention.
Many vehicles have fallen down the cliffs in which lives have been lost.
Residents feel there is need for government to build a barrier to protect motorists from black spots where accidents have occurred in the past.
Gravel roads at the centre, including the one leading to Hauna Government Hospital, are in a sorry state.
A host of other problems like an ugly layout of buildings, unkempt vending stalls and general uncleanliness have taken over where the opposite once prevailed.
These and many other administrative problems have seen Hauna become a pale shadow of itself, much unlike its glory past.
This angers locals whose economic fortunes have dipped owing to lower tourist arrivals to Hauna and its rolling scenery.
“We used to have tourists coming to view the Mutarazi Falls, Mahwemasimike and these beautiful mountain ranges,” a resident, opting to identify himself just as Godfrey, said.
Of late people fear being identified citing a rough political reprise where they are deemed to have criticised the ruling elite.
“Small planes ferrying people doing business in the tea and coffee plantations were regular.”
Tea, banana, coffee and forest plantations at Katiyo, Aberfoyle, Rumbizi and Chiwira Estates in their own way add as attractions apart from their agro-economic value, he said.
Timber plantations decorating mountain sides add to the beauty of the area which has a deep natural scent of flora and fauna.
Villagers’ non-motorised irrigation schemes around Hauna then attracted farming and geographical enthusiasts.
Animal husbandry here is low and under strict control to avoid animals straying into fields.
Villagers in this part of the country own thriving banana plantations in the land where healthy fruit trees and vegetables thrive.
Horticulture is also possible in these fertile lands with a climate favourable to all-year round agriculture.
“Katiyo, which we expected to grow has closed down, their plant is a white elephant now,” Godfrey said.
Tea and coffee plantations at Katiyo were run by Arda, a government agricultural body which of late is thinly funded.
At its height Katiyo Tea, which had become a brand, built a state-of-the-art factory just outside Hauna creating employment for many residents.
This added to the economic vibrance of Hauna which rapidly grew, feeding off the industry.
Today Katiyo’s expensive equipment lies idle, while some is reportedly being auctioned at far below cost price.
“We do not expect the factory to be stripped, instead our leadership should look for other investors to revive these ventures and create employment.”
Residents feel they are playing their part with the establishment of private schools, active retail shops and a highly-reliable transport system.
In their small way neighbouring villagers supply the small town with vegetables and many other nutrients.
Godfrey said they expected their Member of Parliament Luke Phibion Masamvu, from the ruling Zanu PF party, to jealously protect equipment at Katiyo.
“We are in difficult times, but we must protect what exists and start from there at a later stage.”
Other Hauna residents accuse Masamvu of self-development at the expense of the constituents.
“He is building his shops and expanding, but other businesses are going down, look at what is happening here,” a vendor, awkwardly positioned in front of a shop, said.
“If he [Masamvu] wants our vote he must start acting now, we need progress,” the vendor added.
Although there is electricity at Hauna, residents feel other sections of the growth point and its precincts should enjoy the facility generated in the Pungwe Valley.
“We need electricity throughout the valley because it is generated locally. They are making millions of dollars so we feel the owners should also give back to the community from which they operate,” Godfrey said.
Hauna Phase 2, a residential suburb is, despite having been established years ago, still in the dark without electricity.
This was discouraging other property developers thereby stifling growth.
An independent power company Nyangani Renewable Energy has a number hydropower stations in Honde Valley collectively generating more than 10 MW supplied to the national grid which locals feel should also benefit them.
Godfrey said as part of social responsibility electricity companies should improve infrastructure and ensure all locals have power which they are ready to pay for.
Elsewhere in Zimbabwe people in mining areas benefit from community ownership schemes in which part of the proceeds from the businesses is channelled towards community development.
Residents also want Masamvu to ensure proper distribution and billing of water and the establishment of an effective sewer reticulation system.
Poor water billing patterns have resulted in people owing as little as $100 being disconnected. Residents feel the municipality is a bit too tough for a rural set up.
“Besides we also need good roads and effective street lighting,” Godfrey said.
Masamvu is also expected to spearhead the creation of synergies for value addition in an area now devoid of industry yet capable.
“Fruit canning factories are possible, we have water, electricity and human resource. We lack initiatives industrially and politically,” an agricultural extension officer said.
He said fruit canning industries had long been on the drawing board and migration to reality was paramount.
Hauna has a population the last census put at 8 000 and has a permitting climate for multi-sectoral development which the government must compliment, Godfrey said.
Other residents interviewed reiterated the possibility of profitable tourism ventures considering Hauna sits at the feet of Nyanga and other mountain ranges forming a fort around it.
Apart from Mahwe Masimike, a natural tourist attraction of rock outcrops believed to be sacred and Mutarazi Falls, there are areas to establish bungee jumping and mountain climbs for adventure lovers.
Other numerous ventures can be created around the beautiful Mutarazi Falls, the sixth largest water fall in the world.
Locals believe Mutarazi Falls are mystic and sacred.
“Mutarazi Falls could be packaged with many attractions here. We are in a little Eden and not far from here there is a game park with an array of wild animals such as hyenas, reedbucks, klipspringers, antelopes, and predators like leopards for a complete tourist package,” the extension officer said.
Many world-class hotels are within reach from the scenic Hauna with a permitting weather all year round.
An elderly man joked that tourists could come to Hauna to see how lightning is made.
“We have it all here,” he said.
“All these are naturally given facilities for success we need to exploit, but we are lacking.”
Masamvu said he could not do everything alone.
“When I was elected roads had not been attended to in 15 years,” he said.
He facilitated the upgrading of roads, but accused people with ideas of not coming to share, but rushing to tell strangers “like you”.
He said the gravel roads could only be attended to after the rains to guard against erosion.
“Our economy, not only here in Mutasa, but throughout the country, is struggling hence the closure of industries you mention. This has happened in towns and even here,” Masamvu who finally decided to speak after two weeks of excuses.
He said he was a hard-worker and people should do the same and not expect handouts.
“If you go to my banks, I owe a lot, am not using anyone’s money to develop my business ventures,” he said.
On his social media profile, Masamvu, described by some as “big dad” says he has 15 wives and more than 50 children.
He is currently building a massive shop at Hauna next to his large supermarket that is opposite the centre’s bus terminus.
Masamvu said he invites people with business ideas in tourism and fruit canning to arrange meetings with him and the Mutasa North community to find a way foward.
Hauna, surrounded by Rori, Chigweshe, Danhama, Nyatsanza, Mboto, Samushonga, Mandiopera, Pangeti, Samhere, Makwasa, Gatsi, Muparutsa, Buwu, Murara, Pimai, Chavhanga, Sagambe and Zindi villages, wants a local market for its farmers’ produce as opposed to ferrying their stuff to large cities.
“Its easier if people come to buy and not for us to take our produce to them, we cannot carry everything including the beautiful scenery,” Godfrey said.
The entire plantations owned by villagers are under non-motorised gravity irrigation courtesy of the mountain ranges.
Hauna, despite the shortcomings, remains a quiet cool place which will explode into a large town when the economy and political will takes a positive turn.