The Sunday Mail
After years in the economic doldrums, the town of Mvuma is seemingly on the mend.
Mvuma, located on the 192km peg along the Harare-Masvingo highway, has since seen the opening of fast-food outlets on the highway as the tonic that the farming and mining establishment needed for its recovery.
Up until 2010 when fast-food outlet Chicken Slice opened a branch on the highway, Mvuma was a ghost town which was undergoing what town planners term “urban decay.”
Also known as urban rot, urban decay is a process by which a city or part of a city falls into a state of disrepair.
Signs of urban decay include population decline, deteriorating housing standards and an increase in crime.
As a result of that process, thousands of Mvuma residents migrated to such major cities as Harare, Gweru and Masvingo.
Recently, The Sunday Mail Extra visited Mvuma and from the interviews that were conducted it was clear that the residents are optimistic about the future of the town.
“As you are aware, the economic situation is not good. However, a light of hope is shining on us. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of people that are frequenting this place. The sales are increasing,” said Mr Duncan Mafu.
Mr Mafu operates a bottle store at one of the busiest shopping centres in the town.
According to Mr Mafu, business is brisk towards the end of the month when workers from the two food outlets and the truck stop would have received their salaries.
Over the years, service stations, flea markets, banks and hair salons have been opened in the formerly sleepy town.
The demand for housing and other services has also risen in the town.
Residential stands are in great demand in the mining town with high-density stands selling for US$1 600.
Massive infrastructural developments have been made so far.
According to Mr Lovemore Chatikobo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chirumanzu Rural District Council, which runs the affairs of Mvuma, the shortage of land has been hampering the growth of the establishment.
“Much of Mvuma was part of the privately owned Central Estates. As such, we did not have any land to make meaningful development. We have applied for land and we are hopeful that we will be given the land that is within a 10 km radius,” Mr Chatikobo said.
Mvuma is one of the few business centres that operate on a 24-hour basis.
Efforts to come up with the exact number of people that are formally employed in Mvuma were fruitless since most business concerns were not eager to divulge such information.
Mrs Magret Moyana, the Human Resources Manager for Packers International, the holding company that owns Chicken Slice, could not divulge the number of workers that are employed at the Mvuma complex.
“I am sorry, I cannot divulge such sensitive information,” Mrs Moyana said.
Apart from the two fast-food outlets, an upmarket lodge was recently opened and a truck stop is now also functional.
Mvuma has a rich mining history which defined mining development in the Southern African region. About a century ago, Falcon Mine was the country’s largest gold, copper and silver mine.
Falcon then boasted an advanced ore-smelting technology that attracted customers from South Africa and Namibia, among other Southern African countries.
The closure of Falcon Mine (later to be called Athens Mine) in 1996 signalled the decline of the town as most of the town’s residents depended on the mine for their survival.
Although Athens Mine has since re-opened, the mining concern is not operating at full throttle. Mvuma suffered a huge blow when Central Estates, a major agricultural concern, was compulsorily acquired by the Government in 2000.
Owned by business tycoon Mr Nicholas Van Hoogstraten, Central Estates employed more than 1 000 workers and the majority of the workers were drawn from Mvuma.
Mr Jervas Chaurunga, the Chirumanzu/Zibagwe Ward 12 chairman, is optimistic that Mvuma will continue to grow.
“We are a united, peaceful and hardworking people. Our future is bright. Our resettled farmers are doing us proud and by 2020, Mvuma would have developed into a major town,” Mr Chaurunga said.
Banking services are offered in Mvuma, which also boasts of such basic amenities and services as schools, a major hospital, a training centre and a number of supermarkets and vending stalls. As one drives out of Mvuma towards Gweru one cannot help but admire the large, beautiful homes under construction.
From the developments that are taking place, there is no doubt that Mvuma’s future holds great promise.
Mvuma, one of the country’s fastest-growing urban centres, is luring investors as it seeks to become a major investment hub.
Over the past few years, Mvuma has transformed itself from being a sleepy, ghost business centre to become one of the most promising business centres in the country.
According to Mr Lovemore Chatikobo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chirumanzu Rural District Council, which runs the affairs of Mvuma, several businesses have expressed a desire to set shop in Mvuma.
“We have had inquiries from people who are interested in doing business in Mvuma. We are in the process of licensing several business concerns, among them a service station, electrical wholesale company and another business concern that sells vehicle tyres, among other businesses,” Mr Chatikobo said.
Among the businesses that are set to be opened in Mvuma is a meat wholesaling company and a truck stop.
A number of businesses have set up shop in Mvuma over the years with the most significant being the two food outlets and a major shopping centre.
Mvuma is aiming at gaining town status by the year 2020.
“We are excited about the recent developments. The opening of businesses in Mvuma will increase our revenue collection base and will also create employment opportunities for our youths,” added Mr Chatikobo.
Mvuma is currently realising US$3 million every year from revenue collection.
According to Mr Chatikobo, the council’s biggest challenge is revenue collection.
“Our target for revenue collection next year is US$7 million. The biggest challenge that we have been facing is the failure by residents, farmers and miners to pay council rates. We are, however, tightening the screws and have engaged debt collectors to compel those that owe us money to pay,” Mr Chatikobo said.
Demand for housing has significantly increased in Mvuma. The council is currently selling 1 000 residential stands.
Residential and commercial stands are cheap in Mvuma when compared to other urban centres.
A high-density residential stand is selling for US$5 per square metre whilst a commercial stand is pegged at US$20 per square metre.
Since taking over the hot seat in 2009, Mr Chatokobo has transformed Mvuma to become an efficient and professionally-run entity.
The council offices were recently renovated and the council has also managed to acquire four vehicles this year alone.
Under Mr Chatikobo’s guidance, the Chirumanzu Rural District Council was named the best performing rural local authority in road maintenance and Infrastructure development in 2013.
A number of income-generating projects have also been initiated, chief among them a cattle slaughter house and an irrigation scheme.
The council realised 70 000 kilogrammes of wheat during the past winter cropping season.
A horticultural project is also thriving at the council’s 35-hectare plot.
Apart from building classroom blocks at several council-run schools, the council also drilled five boreholes.
“We are inviting business people to come and invest in Mvuma. Mvuma is centrally located and markets are readily available. Businesses can easily connect to such major towns as Harare, Masvingo, Mutare and Gweru, among other urban centres, by either road or rail,” said Mr Chatikobo.