The name Chitsungo might not ring an echo to someone down in Beitbridge, neither might it sound any familiar in any other part of the country.
Reason being that for the best part of the past Republic, the area, which is at the heart of Mbire district, lied neglected, forgotten and unattended to.
The shorter route through Chirunya, Mhokwe and over the Hambe River would only be navigable during the dry season because the bridge over the river, besides being a low-lying one, had been swept away decades ago. Through the District Development Fund, not only is the bridge getting a facelift, but the whole road from Mahuwe to Chitsungo is undergoing a major upgrade.
Almost half of the road has been graded and gravelled, a departure from past traditions when it was only graded, rendering it only trafficable during the dry season.
Sam Makuwerere, the councillor for Ward 17, under which Chitsungo lies, said the road upgrades will make life easier for a lot of people.
“During the rainy season, Chitsungo Hospital would take patients to Harare through Mushumbi, which is a longer route. But with the road now improved, people will be able to travel irrespective of the season.”
Apart from the upgrade of the Mahuwe-Chitsungo road, Cllr Makuwerere is also happy that Chitsungo business centre and three villages surrounding it now have access to taped water.
“The borehole that used to serve this township broke down around 2000 and given the high temperatures that are commonplace here, life was difficult for both people and domestic animals,” said Cllr Makuwerere.
Then the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), with World Vision as the implementing partner, came to the rescue of Chitsungo and sunk a new borehole, installed a solar pump as well as two reservoir tanks.
“Mukonowenzou Village, about a kilometre from here to the north-east, is getting taped water from these tanks.
“This means villagers no longer have to spend lots of time at the water source, mind you the time and energy needed with the bush pump, but they now only have to open a tap,” said Cllr Makuwerere.
Whilst the upgrade of the road and the readily and easily available water might be sweet news to the residents of Chitsungo, 20 kilometres further north, at Mushumbi Pools, the residents there are sweating over something else.
There is a gulley which has been migrating towards the Mushumbi settlement at the rate of about six metres per year, and given that the area is always prone to sporadic flooding, in the next decade the settlement might be swept away.
Whilst during the dry season the traders at the informal market by the gulley go on about their business, the coming of the rainy season brings about anxiety.
“This gulley has been moving towards the settlement,” noted Sarudzai, an informal trader.
“lt looks like the local authorities are not doing enough to save the situation. Probably next time you come, it will be to write about us having being washed away by the rivers,” she quipped.
The settlement lies at the confluence of the Dande and Manyame rivers, both ferocious at the peak of the rainy season. But Cloudious Majaya, the chief executive officer of Mbire Rural District Council, says they are aware of the dangers posed by the advancing gulley but, as a council, do not have the capacity and means to tackle the problem.
“We have been engaging different Ministers of Environment over the past 10 years to no avail. Recently we engaged the provincial development committee and there are attempts to engage the civil engineering department of the national army to help solve the crisis.
“Whilst the cheapest option would be to wait for Dande River to change its course naturally, there is a danger that it might do that just before the bridge linking Chitsungo and Mushumbi, rendering that bridge useless and raising the need for a new bridge.
“Or it might change its course and wipe away the settlement. So the best solution is for us to intervene and change its course.
“Or if there are engineers out there who can proffer a long-term solution. Otherwise as council we do not have the capacity to do the necessary interventions.”
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