By Thembinkosi Dube
The 45 year-old Toruvanda Chimutashu is a resident of the poverty stricken Mberengwa in Pararai Village? Chimutashu’s four and half decades on earth has been confined to Mberengwa and the furthest he travelled from his place of birth was to go to Mwenezi District to fetch two cows which were bought by his cousin, a teacher in the area.
Chimutashu and his family survive on such small fees he gets paid for doing odd jobs. The money is mainly for grinding his maize into mealie mealie at Mataga Growth Point. Over the years free food handouts were his only source of food due to droughts and scarcity of farming inputs.
This year he did not get any food handouts normally channelled through Zanu PF structures. Haana kuluma after the village leadership scratched his name from the list of beneficiaries after he was seen conversing with members of a prominent MDC family.
He doesn’t own any cow or donkey to aid his farming whenever the heavens open up for the villagers. His family uses hoes to prepare the land for subsistence agriculture. His family turned down cow draught power to cultivate their field from an MDC family for fear of Zanu PF reprisals.
To add to his meagre income generated from doing odd jobs, Chimutashu occasionally gets invitations to repair kraals or fence homesteads from affluent families.
His family of four literally survives from pot to bush toilets. Their only single decent meal is sadza and vegetables with neither tomatoes nor cooking oil. Left overs are conveniently brewed into maheu, a non-alcoholic fermented drink endowed with sadza and wheat. This is a ‘luxurious beverage’ which his wife serves him during his day’s errands.
Apart from that he spends some of his days shuttling on foot between his village and Musume Mission hospital to collect his amlodipine medication for high Blood Pressure (BP). This is a distance of 60 kilometres. He would be lucky to find any of his medication at the referral hospital for his hypertension condition.
Most of the time he would have to spend days at Musume queuing for scant medication hoping that supplies could be replenished in his presence. During his informal camping at the hospital, he survives by consuming wild fruits he would have picked up on his way to the hospital.
His route through the forest is littered with wild fruits and untreated water is generously provided by the sand wells dotted on the rivers he crosses on his way to Musume. He has to compete for water from uncovered wells with donkeys, goats, dogs and bees.
Chimutashu doesn’t even remember the last time he had his BP reading taken because the Sanitas Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors are always out of service.
His nearest medical centre, Gwai Clinic ceased to be an option for his chronic condition. The clinic can neither provide clean water nor bandages nor pain killers.
All Chimutashu wants in his life together with other million residents of Mberengwa is food, peace and good governance. There is nothing they can do about the scorching heat and persistent drought in the district, but want their government to get priorities right.
Chimutashu’s lifestyle is a mirror of what millions of Zimbabwe villagers go through, much to the ironic priorities of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government that is clearly majoring in minors. Instead of investing in food security and health, Ngwena’s government did the unthinkable.
The cabinet had been burning midnight oil, identifying roads and buildings to name after their Tsar, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. People like Chimutashu are incensed by the government’s misdirected energy on renaming 10 streets after President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Many others who were honoured fought in the 1970s guerrilla war against white-minority rule and went on to become prominent figures in independent Zimbabwe.
Other African leaders such as Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyatta and Abdel Gamal Nasser are to have roads named after them, along with international leaders such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Leonid Brezhnev of the former Soviet Union and China’s Mao Zedong.
Chimutashu has never seen a tarred road in his life except for a thin and short strip which runs from Muponjane after Buchwa Mine to Mataga Growth Point. The poorly constructed tarred road which only gets a face lift up of fresh asphalt during election years, remains rugged for the greater periods between elections.
Chimutashu and millions of other villagers’ basic needs can be met if the government is to put to a halt the fruitless expenditure on renaming of roads and purchase painkillers, bandages, BP, Antiviral, diabetic medications and triple their food relief programmes.
The huge defence budgets of $25 billion allocated to the Ministry of Defence could have been better used to pay doctors and nurses decent salaries instead of splashing it on water cannon tanks, tear gas, bullets and baton sticks.
Ko vanhu vangadya ma roads here vakomana? We are calling for immediate interventions in Mberengwa from the United Nations to avert mass starvations and high mortality rate due to easily preventable diseases or conditions. As these chaps concentrate in changing roads, they should however be reminded of their social contract to serve Chimutashu, who should be relieved of his daily troubles of walking for 60 kilometres to access non-existent medication.
The government should be made to realise that Zimbabwe needs not to be drawn back to a Stone Age level of sharing drinking water with animals. Health and food challenges should get the biggest share of our national budget and not defence and security ministries.
The government of Zimbabwe must invest their time and energy in addressing the people’s pressing needs than concentrating on hero worshipping themselves.
Inserting ED’s names in Harare roads will not change Chimutashu’s fate who has never been to Harare anywhere. One would have expected this ‘comic cabinet’ to at least fix the roads and streets before hanging their names on them.
Thembinkosi Dube, is a Tourism entrepreneur and MDC Spokesman in Mberengwa South.