The Sunday Mail
To many, Dzivaresekwa is just the suburb next door. DZ, they call it.
But a dig into the archives will reveal a lot about the historical significance of the suburb. Though the common urban legend is about the pool (dziva), which is said to have the behavioural characteristics of quick sand, little is spoken of the Nehanda attachment to Dzivaresekwa.
In 1896, the Shonas and Ndebeles rebelled against the marauding colonialists, especially over the hut tax which they were being forced to pay. The rebellion, historically significant as the First Chimurenga, saw immense fighting between the Shonas and Ndebeles, against the British South African Company.
As the rebellion climaxed, Mbuya Nehanda, the spirit medium which resided in Mazowe, led the rebellion from the Shona end, leading her subjects from the war front. The war had taken them as far as present-day Dzivaresekwa.
Whilst some versions refer to Mbuya Nehanda as being captured, another version says that she surrendered on account of the casualties that had encountered her soldiers.
Her surrender was at the hill overlooking the present-day Presidential Guard barracks, where she called for a ceasefire to the chindunduma (battle) that had killed most of her subjects.
Years later, as the Rhodesians strengthened their grip on locals, they created a suburb where their domestic workers, mostly gardeners and “housegirls”, would reside. Hence the birth of Gillingham, which later became Dzivaresekwa.
And years later as well, as squatters were moved from Porta Farm, they were resettled at Dzivaresekwa Extension.
These two, domestic workers and ex-squatters, partly explains the demographic complexion of the settlement, which draws mainly from the disadvantaged end of society.
A perspective that George Chimhini, an aspiring Member of Parliament for Dzivaresekwa, is well aware of, as the country heads into harmonised elections soon.
“There are many challenges facing Dzivaresekwa, and most of these challenges draw a lot from the imbalances brought onto the suburb by the historical settlement of its people, most of whom the same history had conspired to suppress,” he said last Saturday, on the sidelines of the launch of his campaign season for the parliamentary seat.
And in a refreshing development, the campaign rally was attended by all the losing candidates in the Zanu-PF primary elections which were held on May 29. The losing candidates were introduced as campaign managers for him.
Cdes Andrew Marauka, Rhona Reza, Francis Chanduru and Charles Chaviru — all losing aspiring candidates in the May 29 primaries — attended the rally and pledged their support for Chimhini, as the winning candidate.
In thanking the party for the support, as well as encouraging the losing candidates to work together with him, following on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s gospel of peace during the forthcoming elections, Chimhini took the time as well to remind the residents of Dzivaresekwa on the work that he has done so far, in helping to uplift the suburb.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. What we have done in the recent past is just a precursor, a taste of what we can achieve, if we work together.
“Most of you must be aware of the role that I played in having Kirkman Road resurfaced, the amount of work and effort I put in having the footbridge linking Dzivaresekwa 2 and Extension, the number of wheelchairs that I have donated to the needy, the tents and chairs that I have donated to be used for funerals in Dzivaresekwa. As well, I have donated 40 computers and four servers to Dzivaresekwa Barracks Primary School. And there is so much more that we can do together.
“But what I need to emphasise over and over again is that we need to appreciate and understand the role of a Member of Parliament. Over and above being a representative of Dzivaresekwa interests in Parliament, helping in crafting laws and overseeing Government, there is a general expectation by the electorate to be more than a facilitator.
“The electorate has an expectation that an MP has to help with infrastructural development, an expectation which in actual fact should fall under the purview of councillors. That perception aside, I promise the people of Dzivaresekwa, when they vote for me, to go beyond their expectation and be their go-between, facilitating the development of the area and being a link between them and Government.
“As someone who has been in business for almost 13 years now, I have a healthy network of contacts and associates whom I can call upon in times of need to help uplift Dzivaresekwa.
“I have work on the ground already that testifies to this healthy relationship with the corporate world, and it is my sole wish and hope that the residents of Dzivaresekwa will vote resoundingly in the forthcoming elections, to choose for development and unity.”
On unity, Chimhini said the sour relations that currently obtain in Nehanda Co-operative need to be mended. He said for Dzivaresekwa to grow and be recognised, it needs to be united.
“The so-called rebels and real co-operative in Nehanda need to close ranks, they need to find each other. Only that way can we build a better and beautiful Dzivaresekwa for everyone.”
The challenges facing the suburb extend beyond unity, as most of the infrastructure needs attention, particularly the road network.
“There are lots of challenges facing Dzivaresekwa and it is not going to be a one-man job, but rather a multi-sectoral approach. The roads need patching up and resurfacing, the number of schools are skewed in favour of the old Gillingham settlement against fewer ones in Extension, unemployment is very high and the sewer system needs an upgrade, especially in Extension.
“Like I said, all these things cannot be achieved overnight and neither can they be done by one person or one entity. The most important aspect is identifying these challenges, then engaging the community on what needs to be done first, and then working as the link between the community and the responsible Government departments. That way, we can build a Dzivaresekwa that we are all proud of.”
On unemployment, Chimhini said certain pieces of land have been set aside for the establishment of tertiary colleges. “These colleges will help absorb a number of our youths, as vocational training is quite an important turn-key as determined by the growth pattern of the economy.”
To this end, Chimhini has initiated a number of income-generating projects for the youth, and this thrust will gain momentum post-election.
Apart from building vocational training colleges, Chimhini also said he will engage the relevant ministries to help build more schools for Dzivaresekwa, especially Extension, which badly needs a high school and at least a couple more primary schools.
“Then there is the issue of the link road between Extension and Dzivaresekwa, this needs the immediate attention of Government. These are all issues that need a responsive and pro-active people’s representative, one who can relate with the people and walk with the people.”