Located in poverty-stricken communal lands of Zaka and Gutu respectively, Jerera and Mupandawana growth points which experienced phenomenal growth at independence are still a hive activity while plenty other growth points have now sunk into oblivion.
Despite their waning infrastructure, the two growth points in Masvingo Province have become a beacon of hope as they offer entertainment and opportunities for business to not only the locals but also to people from afar off.
When The Zimbabwe Mail visited the two places recently, it was evident Mupandawana Growth Point was popular with cash spenders and a host to some fine entertainment by various artistes from across the country.
Jerera Growth Point, on the other hand, beams with small scale farmers, vendors and entrepreneurs busy all day trading their wares.
Failure by the growth points to plug migration into towns or cities never appears to worry those located in the vicinity. It doesn’t matter also to them the progressive infrastructural retrogression being suffered as long as the places continue to alleviate their boredom and provide economic relief.
“There are no proper roads, the turf is dusty and sanitation is not sufficient but we are happy that we have a place that makes our life easy.
“There is nowhere to go and we do our business here,” said Chris Chibaya, owner of a flea market at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka.
A number of people who fell victim to the controversial 2005 Operation Murambatsvina reportedly found solace at growth points. What with semi thriving business enterprises!
The growth points, to them, become a source of hope.
“This place has helped a lot of people, especially those who were affected by Murambatsvina in Harare. They relocated back home before engaging in various activities at this place. We saw an increase of traders at this growth point,” said Shuvai Kwangwari, a vendor at Mupandawana Growth Point.
Commending on why the Rural District Council (RDC) was failing to renovate and improve infrustructure at Jerera, an RDC official who declined to be named said the economic meltdown that hit the country had led to the infrastructural deterioration at the growth point.
“It was tight, especially during the turn of the millennium when we had to struggle financially to develop this place.
“This is how we lost it and it’s now hard to deal with the issue unless government intervenes. But here at Jerera, council is giving out stands to people and this area is developing into a mini-town,” said the official.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister, Dr Ignatius Chombo, recently acknowledged the importance of growth points to the overall development of rural areas.
The minister revealed that it was the onus of rural councils to manage the growth points and ensure that financial resources were directed towards their development rather than wait for the government to intervene.
“Yes, it could be government’s responsibility to channel resources towards the development of these growth points but we have to, appreciate that at the moment, we have a lot of responsibilities, therefore, the local authorities must take it upon themselves to ensure that they push for the development of these areas.
“We must not forget that, in the long run, these growth points are meant to grow into some sort of urban centres by the establishment of various industries meant to service the rural areas they are situated in,” said Chombo.
The Zimbabwe Mail saw a number of residential stands under construction, implying that the places where experiencing growth.
People have been jostling to buy residential stands at the growth point with the cheapest in the high density going for an average $1 500.
Medium suburb density stands cost $2 500, while in the low density ones cost an average $5 000.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has witnessed the ‘death’ of growth points, put in place to promote the de-congestion of cities, among other reasons.
Town planning and economic commentators have pointed at the decade long economic meltdown and lack of government funding for the demise of the growth point project meant to decongest cities and towns in Zimbabwe. Donors also haven’t been forthcoming.
Harare is among Africa’s 40 cities with more than a million people.
With the country boosting of more than 30 growth points just after independence, only Gokwe in the Midlands Province has attained town status while others have become white elephants.
More than three decades after Zimbabwe’s independence, the idea of developing its rural areas seems to have been laid to rest, as places intended for development have now been turned into beer outlets, which seem to be more lucrative than industry.
Growth points that are slowly becoming white elephants include Murombedzi, Murambinda, Checheche, Mubaira, among others.
Speaking at a meeting with residents at Murombedzi Growth Point, Zvimba Network Trust member and businessman Chamu Chiwanza bemoaned the ‘death’ of the place and urged residents and the community to work hard to develop their own area.
“I am disappointed to learn that we still have the same infrastructure that we used to have 20 years ago.
“Relevant authorities, including government, have failed to develop this area and it now needs people from Zvimba to take action and make sure that development is done in this area,” he said.