Six years ago Joice Mujuru was the toast of Binga after unveiling a potentially life-changing irrigation project for the perennially dry district to tap into the mighty Zambezi River.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
Binga, despite its proximity to the Zambezi, suffers from acute food and water shortages every year, hence the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme was viewed as panacea to the district’s woes.
Mujuru was still President Robert Mugabe’s second in command and the long-suffering Binga folk had every reason to believe her when she proclaimed that all their problems would be extinguished.
The scheme, which aimed at putting about 5 000 hectares of land under irrigation, would have created a green belt in areas along the Zambezi River, stretching from Kazungula to Kariba.
However, Binga’s hope appeared to have been extinguished two years ago when Mujuru was fired from Mugabe’s Zanu PF government. The project she launched in 2010 now lies in ruins.
On August 20, Mujuru returned to Binga, this time as the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader, ready to challenge Mugabe’s throne in the 2018 elections.
And it was no surprise that the crowd of over 3 000 that gathered at Manjolo Business Centre, 17km from the Zambezi River, were convinced it is the former VP who can take them to the promised land.
Million Munenge (40), a former temporary teacher said he joined ZimPF because he believed that as a new kid on the block, the party had learnt from the shortcomings of other parties like Zanu PF and MDC-T, which included a lack of appreciation of problems bedevilling Binga.
“It is painful that we live on the shores of one of the region’s biggest rivers, but we don’t have drinking water, our livestock is dying of thirst year in, year out,” he said at the rally.
“As the leader of a new party, I hope Mujuru will come up with something new that will bring hope to our community.
“We don’t have jobs. we are surviving through illegal fishing and have problems with Parks and Wildlife officials.”
Munenge worked as a temporary teacher for the past six years before he was fired by the government for not having the necessary qualifications.
Mujuru was so popular after launching the Bulawayo Kraal project that local chiefs gave her the nickname Musungwazi (Saviour).
Munenge added: “We hope that she will revive the water project that she pioneered six years ago. She is our only hope.
“The Zanu PF government has failed us, and so are the MDC-T MPs we have voted for in the past years.”
Stan Mleya (29) said he was a Zanu PF supporter for the past 10 years, but no longer believes the ruling party had any solution to the problems facing Binga.
Like Munenge, Mleya complained of perennial water problems, a collapsing road infrastructure, lack of jobs and neglect by the ruling party.
“As youths, we are getting an education to simply shelve. There are no jobs.
“We are surviving on wood carving and fish poaching. We have children and we don’t have any hope that their future would be bright,” Mleya said.
“We have been marginalised and we hope this new party will be our salvation, that is the reason we are here to support Mujuru.
“Mai Mugabe (First Lady Grace Mugabe) was here, she made several promises, and none of the promises have been fulfilled.”
A year ago, Grace visited Binga and warned the BaTonga people that they would not realise any development in their area if they continued to support Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.
She accused the villagers of not understanding the history of the liberation struggle, before making numerous promises and dishing out food hand-outs in what observers described as vote-buying.
Another youth, Willard Mukombwe said the issue of lack jobs was the reason he now pinned her hopes on Mujuru.
“Zanu PF has failed to create jobs and I am here to support Mujuru because I think her party will focus on the revival of the economy,” he said.
At the rally, Mujuru promised to revive the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, mooted in 1912, to bring water to Bulawayo and turn the semi-arid Matabeleland into a green belt.
“We have to revive the Zambezi water project,” the former VP said. “Water is life,” Mujuru added.
As the race for the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections begins, it remains to be seen if Mujuru would turn her appeal into votes.
Binga has gained a reputation of voting as a block and consistently rejecting Zanu PF since the end of a de facto one party state in Zimbabwe with the emergence of a then united MDC in 1999.