Stephen Mpofu, Perspective
HOW much of the “periphery” status ascribed to rural Zimbabwe by those without knees has changed before the white colonial rulers were booted out of power by AK-47-wielding sons and daughters of the soil 41 years ago in 1980?
To the white rulers ensconced in their comfortable seats in shiny urban homes, rural areas were important only in so far as they supplied cheap labour by the blacks in factories and other work places in the urban centres.
But when freedom and independence came to our motherland in April 1980, rural and urban areas were regarded as one integral part of a free state in which everyone enjoyed equal rights and privileges under the law and not according to their colour or where they lived.
But be that as it may, something has remained, however, unintentional, which the current rainy season reminds Zimbabweans of the periphery tag attached to Zimbabwe’s countryside — dwelling structures which lag far, far behind post-modernity standards.
While local government authorities in urban centres apparently spend sleepless nights agonising over uncleanliness with litter everywhere, burst pipes spewing stinking sewage and with street vendors accosting anyone in their way, an uncanny bother particularly to foreign visitors, similar concerns about the state of houses in villages apparently does not seem to draw the same attention of local government gurus, as it does in our cities, with the health and safety of residents paramount.
A Civil Protection Unit (CPU) report just released said that in Matabeleland South last month, thunderstorms coupled with strong winds, lighting and hail hit Capitol Block resettlement area in Maqaqeni Village, blowing off rooftops, destroying crops and food reserves.
In Matabeleland North 13 households were affected by heavy rains at Nguminja in Hwange while in the Midlands, the rains did not affect many homesteads or hit public infrastructure such as schools.
The report blamed pole and dagga structures as being the most affected, while poor workmanship on some brick-and-mortar structures resulted in the damage caused.
A detailed countrywide survey at the end of the current rainy season might expose other homesteads also affected by rainstorms and winds, which behoves on Government authorities concerned to take measures for the construction of houses/homesteads that will stand all kinds of weather conditions with modernisation of existing structures for the safety of residents and their belongings.
Such a move obviously necessitates a countrywide rural survey of homes for squatter structures or “tangwenas” to be razed and replaced with modern structures that guarantee the safety of those dwelling in them and their properties.
In colonial Rhodesia, health inspectors toured villages promoting cleanliness, utsanana/ukuhlanzeka in the homes and villagers complied willingly with instructions given for the health of their families.
Today, devolution which is so much in purview should see to the modernisation of homesteads with chiefs playing a pivotal role in areas under their jurisdiction and with their own homes serving as models.
Modernising rural living conditions to match urban conditions cannot fail, in this communicologist’s opinion, to reverse the current urban drift with those people with monitory resources and skills making a beeline back to the villages where their umbilical code or those of their parents or grandparents are buried to invest and transform rural Zimbabwe into a brave new country.
Right now, the Government wants young Zimbabweans to play a big role in the agricultural development of our country.
It is however, common sense that unless life and conditions in rural areas are improved from what they are now, educated young men and women will continue to drift to urban areas in search of jobs and drift on to foreign countries if jobs remain scarce as they are today in our native country due to illegal Western sanctions imposed in protest at land reform — which saw farms repossessed from some whites for redistribution to blacks who needed the assets the most — an aggravation.
A better post-iniquitous sanctions environment developing, allowing development zones dotted across our country should be industrialised in order for the growth points to provide jobs to locals with some agricultural produce being turned into finished products and exported to urban centres and abroad to bring the much needed revenue for more improved rural living conditions.
A Zimbabwe of equal or near-equal opportunities and full bellies for rural and urban dwellers will guarantee greater stability politically and become a haven for foreign investment.