Tsholotsho Villagers Lament Lack of Development

Infrastructural underdevelopment in Tsholotsho remains. Projects like the CAMPFIRE, which could turn this around, are seemingly not benefiting locals.

When the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) project started in the Tsholotsho district coupled with timber harvesting, local communities were looking forward to being incentivised through direct and indirect economic benefits. They also hoped to see infrastructural development at their local wards.

For Thandazani Moyo (whose name has been changed for fear of reprisals), a young man born and raised in Tsholotsho, development is the last word he would use to describe the state of schools, roads and clinics in areas where there is the cutting down of timber and harvesting of elephants.

“Timber harvesters’ trucks and tractors are destroying our roads yet we, the communities, aren’t benefiting anything from them,” says Moyo, a disgruntled villager.

“Again, there’s CAMPFIRE where I believe local wards are not aware of the 40 per cent they are supposed to get to develop their areas because our schools, roads and clinics are not being maintained.”

Moyo alleges the Tsholotsho rural district council fired an employee for questioning the lack of development from the CAMPFIRE resources.

The reporter could not get in touch with the allegedly ex-council employee in order to verify these claims. Council authorities have denied the allegations, maintaining that “no one was fired from the council”.

CAMPFIRE is a community-based wildlife conservation approach to wildlife as a renewable, profitable resource and it serves as a model for some other indigenous conservation projects in Africa. It allows communities to earn income on communal lands through sustainable use of the environment and wildlife.

The CAMPFIRE projects are managed through rural district councils who distribute contracts for safari hunting and tourism and allocate revenue to local wards.

Moyo expressed displeasure at the Tsholotsho rural district council alleging that the local authorities are failing to rehabilitate roads, construct new classroom blocks at available schools and not maintaining health facilities in areas where there is timber and elephants harvesting.

Local wards where there is the harvesting of timber include Gwabazabuya, Sodaka, and Lukukwe while elephants are found in wards such as Sihazela.

“Each and every time a hunter guns down an elephant for example, for USD$10 000 or USD$20 000, 60 percent of that money goes directly to communities while 36 percent goes to the council for administration expenses and 4 percent is given to CAMPFIRE associations,” explains Tsholotsho rural district council chair Esau Siwela.

He says: “Communities from each and every ward have even now opened NOSTRO accounts where the hunter directly deposits that money into. Tsholotsho Rural District Council acting chief executive is a signatory to these accounts so as to monitor any embezzling of those funds. Communities then use those funds to dig trenches, build clinics and schools among other projects through the council which monitors all systems including procurement.”

Siwela says through CAMPFIRE funds, they have managed to build some schools’ classroom blocks and clinic blocks from Jowa and Tshithatshawa areas in Tsholotsho.

However, this was an unwelcomed development to Mlungisi Ndlovu, a villager who questions the council’s move of developing areas where the resources are not from. Ndlovu says priority has to be given to schools where resources are from, citing a lack of classroom blocks.

“Sodaka clinic, where there is timber, has a shortage of resources; St Mary’s Primary School in the same area doesn’t have enough classroom blocks for pupils,” says Ndlovu. “The road to this primary school is degraded to the point that not even a Honda fit (Japanese car) can make it there.”

“Sihazela Primary School also doesn’t have enough classroom blocks. Lukukwe Primary School is better in terms of classroom blocks compared to these other schools.”

Ndlovu says most primary schools in Tsholotsho have between three to four blocks of classrooms which cannot accommodate all grades and ultimately, compelling different grades of pupils to conduct lessons in one classroom.

Lack of basic education infrastructure continues to undermine the education system in Matabeleland school. Due to lack of resources and poor infrastructure, many qualified teachers do not want to work in these remote areas resulting in most schools recording 0 percent pass rates.

Asked about the state of roads in Tsholotsho, Siwela says they have managed to rehabilitate the roads under their jurisdiction using devolution funds from the government.

“It came as a directive that our roads have to be rehabilitated differently meaning, the council, DDF and ministry of transport now have to take care of their own roads. As the council, we received our own money and worked on our roads, the DDF and ministry of transport also got their share to work on roads under their jurisdiction,” says Siwela.

“I think these other two departments complained and asked that they receive their own devolutions funds however, it becomes a challenge to us when they don’t work because to people it may seem like we’re not doing anything whilst we’re busy working,” he says.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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