Groups of unemployed youth sat down by the roadside admiring a man skilfully operating a heavy tar-making machine.
By Jairos Saunyama
Bitumen company machinery and heavy vehicles had become a source of entertainment to the youth who spent most of the day observing how a tarred road is made.
For many, it was the first time to witness such machinery in the high-density suburb of Dombotombo in Marondera.
To them, it will always remain a memorable day, and of course getting to know that a stretch of about 400m would be completed in hours.
The work was smooth and swift compared to that of the local municipality’s ramshackle that moves around filling potholes with red soil and taking over a week to complete a kilometre.
The youth were surprised seeing a whole stretch of road being constructed and completed in barely an hour and by less than 10 people.
They were used to seeing scores of municipal workers taking ages to fill in potholes using shovels.
“This is amazing; I wish one day I will be able to operate that machine. Look at how he is offloading the tar, these men know how to do it,” said a young boy marvelling at the Bitumen workers refurbishing the road that links Harare-Mutare highway and Rudhaka Stadium.
But all this was happening thanks to President Robert Mugabe’s visit to this small farming town of Marondera last Friday A week before Mugabe’s visit, roads in the town were just stretches of dust punctuated by huge potholes.
But the unanswered questions from the residents were: Where was the money all along? Why were the roads getting refurbished this time? Mugabe’s visit showed just how government and its agencies can quickly find money which is not there.
According to a reliable source, the municipality of Marondera had asked for its allocation of funds from Zinara so that they could rehabilitate the roads ahead of the rally.
“The municipality requested its allocation of road funds ahead of the rally but Zinara told them they would do the job themselves. Had it not been that, the road construction wouldn’t have taken place,” said a source.
However, Mugabe’s rally was held a stone’s throw from the harsh reality of underdevelopment. The nearby Dombotombo suburb has raw effluent flowing down the potholed streets while garbage is strewn all over.
A few days before Mugabe’s visit, elderly women were seen cutting grass using sickles, a sign that the local municipality has been failing to cut grass in the residential areas since the onset of the rains.
While addressing the gathering at Rudhaka Stadium, youth league boss Kudzanayi Chipanga confirmed complacency by the leadership as he told party members that development can only happen if Mugabe visits an area.
“Gushungo [Mugabe’s totem], when we brought the message that you were coming this side, potholes littered all the roads in Marondera. Am I lying Marondera?” Chipanga asked the crowd.
“But all the roads are now new. The minister of local government [Saviour Kasukuwere], I want to thank you for assisting the provincial minister and council, because when they heard that the president was coming to Marondera, the workers were having sleepless nights in the street. The real Marondera is back. And the people here are now saying, we wish the president would visit this town each year because your visits transform the town.”
Chipanga accused city fathers of sleeping on duty and warned them that the youth would dumb such leaders come 2018.
First Lady Grace Mugabe also complained about council’s failure to provide services and blasted them for rehabilitating roads only when Mugabe visited.
“We have all these people in the province and other provinces who support Zanu PF and that support is our power. Let us honour what we promised them before elections so that we avoid the last-minute rush trying to fix things,” Grace said.
“This idea of rehabilitating roads because the president is coming to Marondera is bad. The roads must be refurbished always to show that we are there for the people.”
Former Marondera mayor and People’s Democratic Party secretary for Local Government Farai Nyandoro said it was a pity that development was only realised when Mugabe was visiting.
“We note with concern this behaviour where you see state-of-the-art machinery mending roads whenever Mugabe is visiting. Is that devolution as enshrined in our Constitution?” Nyandoro asked.
“State resources are easily accessible when Mugabe is visiting. Is someone hoodwinking the alpha and omega of Zanu PF or it’s our $15 billion now in use? It’s a shame that we have been reduced to this by our supposed liberators. Devolution and development is realised on one condition, Mugabe’s visit. Let’s say no to marginalisation.”
A few hours after Mugabe’s rally, the heavy vehicles and machinery were seen being driven away back to where they had come from, yet high-density suburbs like Yellow City, Rusike and Cherima among others remained littered with potholes while other areas have no roads at all.
It is also back to normal for the youth who no longer have the opportunity to marvel at the road workers. Their entertainment is gone.