Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
Makhado lies on the border of Gwanda and Beitbridge districts in Matabeleland South. It is within 100km of Beitbridge town to the south and an equal distance within Gwanda to the north.
Surrounded by farms and safari hunting areas, it has traditionally served as a largely sleepy drive-by point than a drawcard for any activity that may bring multitudes together. Motorists and other travellers pulled up for meals mainly starches with goat meat or spring chickens, and to pick up fresh farm produce.
Many women, especially informal traders, among other dealers providing fuel supplies, vehicle recovery, and tyre fixing are making a living there.
However, Makhado, which also links Maranda towards Masvingo to the east, has undergone a facelift which is set to rewrite its and surrounding settlements’ story.
From a lazy roadside vending site, huge investment has rolled in in the form of a US$2,5 million One-Stop Shop Business Complex. There is no doubt, Makhado will never be the same again.
Vice President Kembo Mohadi officially opened the complex on Friday last week, with scores of people gathering to witness the awakening of a giant.
The complex has a 28-room lodge, beauty salon, service station, Internet café, motor vehicle workshops, conference facilities, butchery, bakery, supermarket, and a hardware shop, among other key services.
It was built by TopPick Investment, a company owned by the Marema family, which is based in South Africa. TopPick Investment chief executive officer, Mr Danisa Moyo, said the new lodge and business complex was strategically positioned along the highway and the heart of tourism activities in Gwanda and Beitbridge districts.
While officially opening the project, Vice President Mohadi said it was important for other business people at Makhado to upgrade their properties to maintain the momentum set by TopPick Investment.
He said the Government had also refined its tourism development and rural development policies to boost economic growth as envisaged in Vision 2030.
“The project we are commissioning here today is a testimony of the growing interest by our own local investors to participate in and invest in the lucrative tourism sector.
“This has been enabled and accelerated by the improved business environment that the Government of Zimbabwe and Second Republic, under the able leadership of President Mnangagwa continues to champion across all the economic sectors, tourism being one of them,” said the Vice President.
He said the recently-launched National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) will employ bold and transformative measures, continued international re-engagement efforts, leveraging on the national competitive advantages among them natural resources.
According to the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Matabeleland South, Abednico Ncube, more economic opportunities could be unlocked if private sector players joined hands with the Government to drive investment.
He said Matabeleland South was rich in mineral resources and is also good for farming, tourism, and energy development, which present huge investor opportunities.
“This project will not only change the landscape of the Makhado area but also bring the much-needed services along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Highway, which is a very critical and busy road in the province.
“TopPick Investment had invested a lot in the province in areas including funeral parlours, farming, accommodation, and fuel service while contributing to employment creation, which is one of the Government’s top priorities,” said the Minister.
He said the Makhado complex and lodge will indeed transform the province’s tourism sector, which has been hampered by the lack of the requisite accommodation.
An academic from Gwanda District, Dr Omphile Marupi said there were many investment opportunities at Makhado that can facilitate its transformation into an urban settlement in a short period.
“I believe if banks such as Cabs, AgriBank, Mukuru can open branches it would alleviate the challenges people are facing when they have to travel to either Beitbridge or Gwanda towns. In addition, shops such as Power Sales and Bata if they may set shop and stock uniforms and school shoes it would be ideal. In addition, a huge supermarket would do as well,” he said.
Dr Marupi said it will be important for the local police post to be upgraded in line with the recent and anticipated growth of Makhado and to also offer services like certification of legal documents.
He said there was also a need for authorities to construct a terminus for commuter omnibuses and long-distance buses going to Mberengwa, Beitbridge, Maranda, Masvingo, and Gwanda rural.
Mrs Elaine Watson of Magwamazi Farm, said Makhado has great potential for farm produce supply which will create employment opportunities for those in surrounding communities.
“We are happy to have associated with more people who are passionate about farming and infrastructure and community development.
If we have more people, with this kind of vision, this place will transform rapidly,” she said.
Mr Charles Siphuma, who runs a motor vehicle workshop said the transformation of Makhado was long overdue.
“We are on the right track and our dream is to see this place develop into a fully-fledged town in the few years to come. We only need to stick to the standard and planned property development models,” he said.
Some small business owners, while acknowledging that the place was on the right path to transformation, urged the Government to push for a piped water system which is very critical in every area’s economic activities.
“I have lived on selling groceries and food to many travellers here and am elated with the rate at which new businesses that are upgrading our status are being set up.
“As a community we are confident that in 10 years, we will be having a township here, but to achieve that we need to address water supply issues first, by sinking more boreholes and having piped water,” said Mrs Jennet Dube.
It is understood that the Government plans to build a five cubic-metre plant to supply the place with water from Magwamazi Dam, but lack of funding has seen the project failing to take off. — @tupeyo
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