BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO
HWANGE — Motorists travelling to the Zambezi River drive dangerously slow on the pothole-riddled road; they avoid crashing into pothole ditches which seem to be expanding daily.
One cannot tell if the road is still tarred or not. But the once tarred road is just now black because of coal pebbles that are regularly dropped by speeding haulage trucks going to Hwange Thermal Station daily. It used to take only 30 minutes to drive to Zambezi River, but on this dusty black road with potholes, motorists now take one hour and 30 minutes or more to Zambezi River.
The District Development Fund (DDF) says this wet season the rains destroyed 150 kilometres of roads. Simultaneously, Hwange motorists and residents blame mining activities on the periphery of Hwange town for destroying the Zambezi-Deka road, cutting off the road network that links villages to the mining town.
DDF acting provincial coordinator, Jacob Ndlovu, said DDF has 2 300km of road networks in the province most of which have been destroyed by the rains rendering some areas inaccessible.
Ndlovu said they were in the process of repairing the St Mary’s-Luseche road in Hwange district, which is the main artery linking people from Luseche.
“With this Covid-19 pandemic, we need to make sure that villagers can access medical services wherever they are. Ambulances need to move safely on these roads,” he said.
Ndlovu said Zinara has allocated $10 million to refurbish the roads, although they need $150 million to redo all the province’s damaged roads.
Nekabandama ward 12 councilor Jowanisi Tshuma said the damaged 39km St Mary’s-Luseche had cut off the Luseche villagers from the rest of the world.
“Villagers in Luseche are unable to move to Champepho Village to collect their farming inputs because the roads are bad,” Tshuma said.
In addition to the rains, mining activities have played a role in destroying the roads in Hwange. Two mining companies, Galpex and Zimbali, operating along the Zambezi -Deka road, are being accused of destroying a 6km stretch by locals.
The road, which is known for having massive potholes resulting from haulage trucks from the Chinese companies, has become a death trap for villagers and domestic animals living along the Deka and Zambezi road.
Deka Road links Hwange town to the Zambezi River, connects to Victoria Falls via Jambezi, and proceeds to Binga along the Zambezi.
Destruction of the stretch blocks villagers from linking the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone (SEZ) demarcated by Zimbabwe’s government.
The SEZ capacitates tourism, agriculture and mining as it includes integrating the natural environment, current ecotourism activities and requirements of the World Heritage status; thus, villagers feel left out. Access to the SEZ benefits the villagers by enhancing their tourism products and integrating other mining and irrigation activities in Binga and Hwange districts.
Hwange resident Peterson Ncube says the miners’ activities are an eyesore and have disconnected the town from investors who want to utilise the SEZ for economic benefits.
“That area attracts tourism investors and is part of the Special Economic Zone, but the miners are ripping off that road which links us to investors,” he said.
Makwa Village head Bernard Ncube argued the miners are causing more damage than development, and their efforts for sanity to prevail have been lost on deaf ears.
“This is the fourth time we have confronted the miners, but they always refer us to people who do not even listen to our pleas. They don’t care about how we feel, and they have taken away our rights to use the road,” said the village head.
Motorists who use the Deka-Zambezi route echo similar sentiments, saying the miners operating on the peripheries should repair the road, which is now dangerous to drive on.
“The miners should repair the road before we start losing lives from the bad road. Zupco buses and other vehicles use that road, but it is now a death trap for motorists and passengers. These mines should consider repairing the road,” said Lawrence Ncube, one of the motorists.
However, a representative from Galpex would not shoulder the blame, but assured the villagers and residents that they would consider repairing the road beginning this month, although they blamed previous miners in the area for the damage.
- This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.