The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
THERE was plenty of song and dance last Friday in Village 4, Epping Forest, Umguza in Matabeleland North just as dignitaries prepared to cut the ribbons and officially commission one of the 12 houses that were being handed over to families that had been relocated to make way for powerlines that are a part of the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) Hwange expansion project.
For the dignitaries present, this would not have been the first time they had seen live entertainment at a function. Despite formality and protocol, music is usually a part of even the most stately of events.
However, when the women of Village 4 got up to sing and dance, it was clear that this would be a song and dance with a difference. Sure, their voices sounded timid and their feet did not stomp the ground with the surety of professional dancers.
However, what was certain was the sincerity behind their song. Theirs was a song of acknowledgment and deep appreciation and it was no wonder why this was so. For the country, the ZPC project will deliver an extra 600 megawatts to the country’s electricity grid by the end of 2022. To the villages in Village 4 however, the project is set to deliver 73 new homes that are bringing a taste of urban comfort and style to rural Epping Forest.
The new homes, the first dozen of which were commissioned, consist of three roomed main structure, made up of a lounge and two bedrooms. A separate, spacious kitchen with a thatched roof sits in close proximity of the main house.
With the smell of fresh paint still dominating the air in his newly built home, Mr Amon Sibanda told Sunday News that the new home was a far cry from his dilapidated old hut on which brown mud seemed to cling to crumbling walls.
“For me, this is a blessing in disguise because I was just moved a short distance from my homestead. It has been a pleasure this entire time to work with the ZESA boys and it is unfortunate that you will not be able to see them at work today because of the function but if you come tomorrow, you will see the job that they’re doing. We are now the envy of the community and it may be unfortunate if some have allowed jealousy to settle in their hearts because of how good our houses look, but given all the great things done for us, I’m sure their time will come as well,” Mr Sibanda said.
One of the traditional leaders of the village, Headman Bhebhe, complimented the spirit of cooperation between villagers and ZPC workers. A complicated process was done without incident or any notable friction. The village has also been equipped with a solar-powered borehole.
“To the ZESA management, I say what you have done for us is not what we anticipated. You have installed a borehole for us and we now have a good source of drinking water. Right now, they have built beautiful houses for us and we have been promised electricity and I want to thank them in advance because they have shown that they are people who fulfil their promises.
“We are one family and I’m happy to see our community being uplifted like this. The unity that the people have shown when the people were working here is great. We have never heard reports saying police have intervened in some fracas or people have fought for any reason. All that is down to the villagers and I urge them to stay that way,” he said.
Chief Deli, under who the area falls, said that when the relocation process started, no one in their wildest imagination would have thought that in a short time Village 4 would transform into a slice of urban heaven. He said that it was his fervent hope that since villagers had been relocated so that electricity could flow over their former homes, the latest move to modern homes would also see villagers also connected to the national grid.
“We never had hope that people would be moved from their humble homes to such modern settings. I heard that with time, people will be connected to electricity. It’s now an easy thing to do because of the types of homes people now have. It was not easy to connect a hut with a thatch roof to electricity,” he said.
Matebeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Cde Richard Moyo, said that the construction of the new homes showed the caring nature of the government, as it is determined to deliver similar comfort to many villagers around the country.
“The Second Republic is a caring Government and ZESA Holdings has embarked on a Relocation Action Plan to build new homesteads for the affected families to ensure that no one is left homeless. The Plan has a total of 75 homesteads, with 45 in Matabeleland North Province and 30 in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province. The Government’s policies on relocation are in line with the World Bank Performance Standards that state that the livelihoods and standards of living of displaced persons must be restored or improved from pre-displacement levels.
In this regard, it is pleasing to note that the standards of living for affected persons in Matabeleland North have been improved from the pre-displacement levels, as shown by the structures built under the relocation plan,” he said.
More developments, Minister Moyo said, were on the way.
ZESA board chairman, Dr Sydney Gata said that given the ambitious scope of the expansion project, the relocation of the villagers was necessary. What was important however, he said, was to deliver new and better homes to them for their convenience.
“First and foremost is the power station itself which has cost us a billion dollars. Then we have high voltage transmission lines, you have seen some of the towers coming to this function, from Mangwe substation to Insukamini and 400km from Hwange. There is a new substation which we call the Hwange B substation and there is another substation which we call Sherwood B substation.
Then there are extensions of existing substations both in Insukamini and Marvel,” he said.