BULAWAYO — Nyamandlovu Business Centre in Umguza constituency, Matabeleland North, is a lifeless and small area with old derelict buildings.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A grocery shop, restaurant and bottlestores are all that make up the business centre.
From what I observed during a recent visit, officers and their family members from a police station across the centre are the main customers.
Nearby, there is a Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot that caters for the whole of Nyamandlovu area, where hunger is stalking villagers.
The depot also houses the small sub-office of the Registrar General’s Office (RG) and the offices of the local council.
As I interacted with the locals, I gathered that about 90 tonnes of maize recently disappeared from the GMB and found its way to the home of a Zanu PF top official (name supplied).
I could not immediately confirm the allegations.
But the villagers whom I spoke to expressed anger that maize meant for them had been diverted when they are going hungry.
Here most families can only afford a single meal a day. Some of the children looked malnourished. I could tell by their stick-thin legs and “pot-bellies”.
Most of the villagers here survive on food hand-outs as the area is dry and crops like maize barely make it to maturity.
For some time now, Obert Mpofu, the Mines and Mining Development minister, who is MP for the area, has also been their “saviour”, “donating” maize to them.
But hunger is not the only thing that worries them, they told me.
They are also worried about violence and political terror as a referendum and elections approach.
In the run-up to the 2008 elections, the villagers lived in fear as violence ripped across Nyamandlovu as soldiers were deployed in the area to campaign for Zanu PF.
As the country heads for the referendum and harmonised elections later this year, fears have resurfaced.
This has been worsened by the presence of soldiers in the community, coming in huge numbers to register as voters at the local RG’s office.
“No civilian can be comfortable in the presence of soldiers when there is no war,” said Mxolisi Ndlovu, an MDC-T member.
For the past few weeks, I have noticed several soldiers, their spouses and recruits at Imbizo Barracks on the outskirts of Bulawayo being transported to Nyamandlovu to register as voters.
They are currently being transported at least thrice per week.
A fortnight ago, I observed a Zimbabwe National Army Bedford truck that broke down about 20km from Nyamandlovu while ferrying soldiers and recruits for registration.
After registering, the soldiers spent the better part of the day roaming around the lifeless small business centre, further instilling fear in the villagers.
“The presence of these soldiers scares us. We suspect that they are being registered here so that they come and set bases here and harass us before and during the elections,” Nkosiyabo Ndlovu, one of the villagers said.
Already, cases of politically-motivated violence are being reported by the MDCs in Umguza constituency. Some villagers are reportedly being threatened with eviction from their homesteads if Zanu PF loses elections.
It will only be after soldiers have stopped roaming around Nyamandlovu that the villagers here will start living in peace again and only need to worry about where their next meal would come from.