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New Constitution Must end Bambazonke Mindset

RECENTLY the co-chair of the parliamentary select committee Douglas Mwonzora indicated that an estimated four million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will be given a chance to contribute to Zimbabwe’s constitutione-making process.

So here is my small contribution that’s aimed at addressing the Bambazonke mindset that has disadvantaged other regions and cities in terms of national cake distribution.

The new constitution must have a mechanism in place that other regions of the country are NOT disadvantaged by the Bambazonke craze that seems to have hypnotised many in Zimbabwe.

I will go straight to the point. It appears to me that you need to travel to Harare in order to get any important document.

Unless you are in Harare you stand to lose out on many items that require head office for authorisation.

I mean ask anyone outside Harare and they will tell you that you have to go to Harare to get your birth certificate, passport and even a liquor licence.

We cannot afford to pile all civic, administrative, sporting, travel, and educational activities on one city. In fact this has put a great strain on the one-time Sunshine City. Ever wondered why Harare cannot even clear the garbage the city produces? The reason for this is the lunatic efforts of trying to centralise everything in Harare.

Most of the policy makers might not be consciously aware of the long-term effects of centralising everything in one city. Centralising all services in one city disadvantages and robs other cities and regions of their inherent capacity to grow and develop. How and why?

Now when ALL concerts, meetings, rallies, conferences, tournaments, document applications, congresses, state funerals  etc are held in one city it means that ALL commercial and business activities follow where the big fish and crowds are.

Let me distil this to a very minute level. When any of these major events are hosted in a city, there comes along business activities ranging from hotel accommodation, transport, fuel stations, restaurants, air time, beverages etc which means that for your business to tap into the honey trail, you must be located in Harare to offer your services.

This inherently deprives, robs and short-changes other regions whose industries cannot experience growth because no big business player wants to invest in Masvingo or Mutare or Bulawayo where there is less activity.

This has a ripple effect and unintended consequences.

For instances mobile companies who run businesses for a profit have no motivation to set up more base stations and increase capacity in areas where there is NO marked activity that always comes with hosting of events seminars.

As the chain reaction proceeds, investors in the travel and tourism sectors are most likely going to follow suit and channel more resources to the region that will yield highest returns.

The ripple effect cannot be exaggerated. As a result of this biased distribution of resources which area creates more jobs and business opportunities? Well, the city that hosts everything.

If I was planning to set up a business in Zimbabwe and had two options of opening offices in either Gweru or Bulawayo, which location do you think will be the best one? None! Business logic would suggest that I take my plans to Harare.

As far as the international community that donates and makes available money and aid to Zimbabwe is concerned, the money and aid sent to Zimbabwe is sent to develop the country and NOT Harare alone. This is where the deprivation and robbery takes place.

Part of this problem is due to the mental colonial inheritance. I can assure you that some of the decision-makers genuinely believe that everything must happen in Harare. The list of people with such mentality even includes individuals who come from regions outside Harare.

I will point to a few recent examples of such incidents, happenings and mindset. Obviously over time the examples are far too many to list here but the following only serve as an eye opener now that we purportedly have a government made up of two opposing parties. You will realise that the thinking is the same on both sides of the aisle.

I deliberately will NOT discuss the pre-GPA bleeps and blunders regarding this centralisation of services in Zimbabwe.

Last week the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Walter Mzembi was surprised that Bulawayo was going to miss out from the international soccer showcase in South Africa because of the collapse of service provision in the hospitality sector, according to a report in the Chronicle. He said “… the collapse of service provision in the hospitality and tourism sectors would lead to the city’s failure to benefit from the World Cup.”

Amazing. He looked very surprised why Bulawayo hospitality industry was in such a state.

Well the above synopsis of events should help address his amazement and shock. From his reaction it is very possible that the honourable minister had not been to Bulawayo before.

Couple this with the reluctance of Zifa to refurbish Barbourfields Stadium to meet Fifa standards for visiting teams and the state of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport; you will have a general idea of the less obvious implications of this like the general lack of enthusiasm towards national events by people from regions outside the capital.

Recently it was announced that a Chinese firm, China Sonangol, was set to develop satellite towns around Harare in a development that is expected to ease housing problems in the capital.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Zimbabwe and China Sonangol that will see the latter funding the development of satellite towns.

The Chinese joint venture company has already unveiled a US$8 billion dollar package to fund various developmental programs in Zimbabwe. OK what is causing the housing problem in the first place?

Yes, you got that right; it’s centralisation! Secondly, the financial deal worth US$8 billion was entered between China and Harare the headlines must read, and not the entirety of Zimbabwe. But as far as the Chinese are concerned, they are helping Zimbabwe.

If services and resources were distributed widely across the country based on cost and strategic importance, there would be NO such housing and garbage problem in Harare.

A year or so ago a partnership was struck between a Ukrainian company Augur Investments and Harare City Council for the development of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Road (Airport Road) offices, houses and hotels to the tune of US$100 million.

Is there any problem with such investments in Harare in Zimbabwe? No. But it creates the suction loop and ripple effect mentioned earlier on. Such a huge project has capacity to create thousands of much needed jobs, which is excellent.

And now where will people flock to look for jobs? It follows then that the problem of accommodation continues, coupled with garbage and traffic mayhem.

Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Nelson Chamisa declared recently that “In five to ten years, Harare will be the next Bangalore.” Bangalore is India’s third most populous city that experienced growth and a rise in living standards because of technological advancement.

This came after the good news that Broadhorn Capital venture had invested in two technology companies in the country.

The capital raised may be in the form of debt or equity and may be from private or public sources. Obviously this is very encouraging and good news for Zimbabwe and underlines the state of mind of our leaders and decision makers when it comes to investing in Zimbabwe.

But why would Chamisa imagine the development of Harare alone and not other parts of the country? Or, is it possible that in his statement he implied that Harare is Zimbabwe? Is that then not the continuation of the same old mindset that I referred to earlier on? If so, Zimbabwe deserves a serious shift of mindset, considering that Chamisa is still young and definitely the future leadership of Zimbabwe.

Our country cannot continue into the future with such a heavily skewed baggage whose mindset is such that one region has to develop at the expense of other regions. Developing Harare is not developing Zimbabwe. Harare is a part of Zimbabwe, but not Zimbabwe.

There are a number of proponents of any modern government that shape the reasons for centralising services.

These reasons may be political, cost, control, efficiency and for quality service delivery. For example, foreign embassies are located in the country’s capital along with other international and monetary institutes.

That’s great and that makes sense from a cost and control point of view. But there are instances where centralising operations for its own sake makes neither economic, political nor common sense.

I will cite an interesting but isolated situation in Zimbabwe. Zimra is responsible for collecting revenue for the government in Zimbabwe. And quite naturally and probably correctly Zimra headquarters are located in the capital city Harare.

Now Beitbridge border town is probably the busiest port of entry in southern Africa located in the southern- most part of the country.

Recently Zimra failed to process customs and excise related duties in time and efficiently from Beitbridge, because there is an extremely poor data link between the border post town and computers systems located in Harare to process these transactions.

Beitbridge is 580 km away from Harare, 288 km away from Masvingo and 230 km away Bulawayo. It is therefore twice as expensive to set up and maintain communications link between the border town and the capital than it is to set up and maintain a communications link from the border town to Bulawayo or Masvingo.

To all concerned and determined activists from all other regions that are on the receiving end of the centralisation stick, I urge you to make sure this issue is sanely and fruitfully brought up during the constitution-making process and finally captured in the new constitution. For if you don’t speak up about this, very soon you will be required to travel to Harare to apply for a permit to paint your house!

Ndabezinhle Ndlovu writes from Washington DC in the US.

 

Ndabezinhle Ndlovu

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