“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
This classic Charles Dickens quote from A Tale of Two Cities reflects the disparity between the haves and the have-nots and the established and the underprivileged communities of Binga.
The town is a major source of fish consumed in Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia.
Because of the thousands of tonnes of fish harvested in the Zambezi River, one would expect to see development and improved living standards among the people.
But the scenario is a tale of the rich and the poor.
Financially stable businessmen have over the years invaded the areas and now operate large-scale kapenta ventures elbowing the locals who are into small-scale fishing.
Mr Joel Mashonga, a representative of one of the small-scale kapenta co-operatives, Katuya, said it was painful to note that development was confined to areas where the large-scale farmers operated or resided.
“It is a pity that members from the small-scale co-operatives that have been operating for a number of decades still face some challenges,” he said.
“A comparison of the houses and assets of the whites and some black people who have descended on this area and the locals reveals a shocking trend as the owners are living a poor life.”
Investigations established that the large-scale operators develop their areas of residency while taking the profits from their fishing projects to improve their lives in other towns and cities.
Some of the farmers keep their money in off-shore accounts after exporting the fish.
“When one speaks of Binga, what comes to mind is poverty, but there is another life for the rich who have double-storey houses facing the Zambezi River,” said the disgruntled Mr Mashonga.
The Sunday Mail In-Depth established that most of the luxurious houses adjacent to the Zambezi River were owned by some white and black businessmen from Harare and Victoria Falls. The locals have been confined to pole and dagga huts while the best lodges and rest camps are owned by the large-scale fish farmers.
What has angered the locals is that the areas of residence for the well-up people are restricted unless one is a gardener or maid.
However, a large-scale kapenta farmer identified as Mr Dareh had his defence and said the businesspeople were helping the community.
“Business is not always booming, but we try our best to employ the local people in the kapenta business. At times we have to pay school fees for their children, they can testify to that. We also have business ventures that need huge costs. We also have to pay fees and licences for us to operate in this area and that is quite expensive,” he said.
A visit to some parts of Binga exposed a remote and poverty situation with villagers struggling to survive.
The situation was dire that some local people have traded their homes for the waters in Sinamusanga, an island where a mixed breed of Zimbabweans and Zambians has invaded to navigate the waters 24 hours.
The group fish in exchange for food from traders who travel from areas such as Harare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe and Kadoma.
Ms Miriam Mudenda, who resides on the island, said most of the people had left their homes in areas that include Chunga, Siabuwa, Sengwa and Chiuya.
“We cannot build permanent structures since at times Parks and Wildlife Management Authority officers chase us away. We know that staying here on the island is both illegal and dangerous, but we both want to feed our families, “said Ms Mudenda.
Most of the children have quit school as they join their parents to make ends meet.
The situation in Binga has been aggravated by a drought which hit the area.
The most affected areas include Sengwe, Samabuwa and Musinamusanga where wild animals have also turned to the fields for food and threatening human life.
While thousands of tonnes of fish are being harvested in Binga, it is shocking to note that the local villager is struggling to enjoy the benefits accruing from the sale of the produce.