Blessing Karubwa, Features Reporter
DEVOLUTION funds that were released by the Second Republic as part of the Constitutional provision for a devolved system of Government have transformed the lives of communities in Matabeleland.
The funds have been channelled towards the implementation of major capital projects which include building of schools, clinics, roads, bridges and dams.
Government started allocating the funds in 2019 and they have been used at district level, a move which has seen learners walking shorter distances to schools while villagers are no longer walking painful distances to access the nearest clinics.
In Bubi district, girl learners were being sexually abused by the gold panners taking advantage of distances they walk from school, something that propelled council to use devolution funds towards addressing such challenges. In some schools Covid-19 containment measures could not be followed due to shortages of classrooms but the story is changing in most schools now.
Some schools in Insiza district were crying out for a facelift as the structures were old and no longer fit for purpose but such challenges were quickly addressed through devolution funds.
The roads were also no longer navigable especially during the rainy season but were graded and gravelled making trafficability possible even by small vehicles.
In Bulawayo, there was an extreme shortage of schools but through devolution funds, the local authority managed to build schools in suburbs like Cowdray Park.
The local authorities have applauded the Government for releasing the devolution funds that they say is important in the realisation of vision 2030 that targets an upper-middle-income economy.
Insiza Rural District Council’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Pardon Moyo, said council could not make it alone without the assistance from devolution funds.
Mr Moyo said due to the land reform programme, Insiza had new settlements which needed clinics and schools.
He said since 2019, council has taken up a number of projects, some of which were completed while some were nearing completion. He said council was prioritising improving health and education provision adding that there was a big gap that the devolution funds were bridging in basic infrastructure provision within the communities.
“A number of projects which we wanted to finish have been left hanging due to financial constraints. The advent of devolution funds made things a lot easier and rekindled people’s hope. We have built schools and clinics. Some of our projects were hanging for the past five years but devolution funds have made a great change within a very short space of time.
“We repaired some schools whose roofs were blown by winds. We also built a dam in Ward 11 as the communities had challenges in terms of accessing water both for people and animals. We have built a classroom block at Dekezi Primary School, reconstructed an admin block which was too old and had been destroyed by winds. We reconstructed a classroom block at
Bungwe Primary School, roofed an ECD block at Mleja Primary School and roofed staff houses at Singwango School,” he said.
The CEO said they used devolution funds to renovate a piped water scheme in Ward 2.
They also built Bekezela Primary School from scratch using devolution funds, a satellite school that was constructed to decongest Filabusi and Marvel Primary Schools in the wake of Covid-19.
Council also used devolution funds to build a staff house at Mbondo Clinic which had not been operating for the past five years.
They also converted a farm house and built a clinic which is expected to start operating in March this year.
He said they have also purchased and erected a fence at Denje Clinic in a Ward 12.
The CEO said the council was currently purchasing road equipment to rehabilitate roads in the entire district.
“We have so far purchased a tipper truck. We are currently tarring one of our roads. We have also bought a backhoe loader. We are currently working on buying a second motorised grader because the one we had is not strong enough because we have two constituencies, Insiza South and Insiza North,” said Mr Moyo.
He hailed the Second Republic saying without devolution funds they couldn’t have made it for the past three years. He said a number of projects have been completed and some are yet to be completed.
“We are asking for more funds; the Government should keep helping us. Devolution funds are making a lot of difference in terms of development. We have been struggling to improve using our own resources,” he said.
Bulawayo provincial development co-ordinator, Mr Paul Nyoni, heaped praises on the Second Republic saying a number of projects have been made possible through devolution funds.
There has been a huge shortage of schools hence the council used devolution funds to improve the education sector by building schools and classrooms.
He said water and sanitation issues were also a major challenge in some suburbs and council channelled devolution funds towards addressing those problems.
He said the funds have given the local authorities some extra muscle to address some challenges that people were facing.
“Devolution funds were channelled towards the implementation of projects like schools, clinics, water and sewerage. The local authorities have used devolution funds to curb sewerage system problems in Matshobane and other suburbs. The funds provided capacity to the local authorities to do some of the things that couldn’t be done because of resource constrains. We are thankful to the Government because the funds that were allocated saw local authorities completing unfinished projects and starting new ones,” said Mr Nyoni.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Cde Richard Moyo, said a number of projects came to fruition because of devolution funds.
“Clinics have been constructed in all rural and urban councils in Matabeleland North. In some areas we used the funds to build schools and put in place piped water schemes. We have people who have been walking 40 to 50 kilometres to the nearest clinic but due to devolution funds we have managed to address such challenges by building a number of clinics.
“We have drilled boreholes and put in place piped water schemes in some wards as a way of addressing the water challenges in the province. We are thankful to President Mnangagwa for coming up with such a unique and powerful plan (devolution fund),” said Minister Moyo.
Residents and villagers have also expressed gratitude to the Second Republic for actualising devolution.
Mr Thulani Dungeni (28) of Insiza district said he had never seen such developments in a short space of time.
“I have been hearing about the Second Republic but soon after seeing the developments made through devolution funds, I immediately got convinced that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want to encourage the Government to maintain the momentum,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development Cde Clemence Chiduwa, said they would continue giving funds to the local authorities despite some challenges which disturbed disbursements of funds some time back.
“We are happy with the implementation and usage of the devolution funds. The Ministry of Local Government has been following up on quite a number of projects that are being implemented as per agreement by local authorities.
“However, our rate of disbursement of the funds for infrastructure development was slowed down by Covid-19 so because of that we did not disburse the full $19,5 billion as per our budget. As treasury we are happy and we will continue to disburse funds timely this year,” said Cde Chiduwa. — @ TichaKarubwa