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Beitbridge is Zimbabwe’s busiest border post which never goes to sleep. Located in the country’s southern part, Beitbridge borders with South Africa’s Musina. But the differences between the two border towns in terms of development are striking to any traveller. Beitbridge town is napping in terms of

development and service delivery yet its border post is one of the busiest in Sadc. In short, the town has been a tale of many intentions without action.

But, Beitbridge town secretary Mr Loud Ramakgapola thinks otherwise.

He is optimistic and says good times are nigh for Zimbabwe’s southern border town.

“The town undertook successful projects since 2009, namely cleaning the town, de-bushing and aligning trees, installing traffic and tower lights, embarking on greening the town, establishing the Siyaso project, maintenance and tarring of road networks in and around town, setting up of income-generating initiatives, and procuring our own earth moving machinery,” he said.

The town secretary said the local authority had been preoccupied with administering areas around and near Beitbridge before setting up proper structures.

“We had challenges with litter, sewer and water pipe bursts and these made Beitbridge a no-go area for ordinary Zimbabweans and the business community. We were labelled as the dirtiest town in the country.”

He said the situation had, however, improved.

A three-phase cleaning programme where bushes around the town were cleared was initiated, littering was dealt with while every day was declared a cleaning day in Beitbridge.

“The business community donated equipment while the residents’ association mobilised manpower.

“Gradually non-governmental organisations and corporate companies showed interest and we installed litter bins around the town. We are working together to keep Beitbridge clean,” he said.

Mr Ramakgapola said the town council had tarred most of the roads in residential areas especially Dulibadzimu township.

He also said maintenance on other roads was in progress.

“We have also installed traffic lights on busy intersections to regulate traffic flows.

“Statistics also indicate a reduction in the number of accidents on all intersections that now have traffic lights. We now record one accident a month compared to one in a week in the past,” he said.

There are about four intersections that have had traffic lights installed in Beitbridge.

“We applaud ourselves for being the first town in Matabeleland South province to have traffic lights,” Mr Ramakgapola said.

He said the installation of tower lights had also reduced criminal activities in the border town.

To promote development, he said, town authorities had established a one-stop shop in support of the small to medium enterprises.

They house informal traders through a project called Siyaso.

The project accommodates a number of small businesses and seeks to empower the people of Beitbridge by providing space for them to conduct business.

Prior to this, the SMEs used to trade at almost every corner of the town.

“As a new and upcoming local authority, we have realised too much expenditure on hiring heavy duty machinery which is inevitable when building a new town.

“We have now procured our own heavy-duty machinery two dozers, a dresser grader, 2times30- tonne tippers, a frontend loader, a TLB, a roller and a specialised refuse truck.”

Mr Ramakgapola said council had availed land to property developers to build at least three- storey buildings among other state-of-the-art infrastructure.

The opening of world-class hotels, he added, had also transformed Beitbridge town to boost tourist arrivals in the town.

Beitbridge has five state-of- the- art hotels and seven lodges.

“As one of the fastest growing urban centres in the country, Beitbridge is endowed with a number of investment opportunities,” he added.

He said the council was seeking partnerships for the construction of a state-of-the-art bus terminus, stadium, fire station, shopping malls in existing and new suburbs.

They also hope to build a library, ICT facilities, water reservoirs, housing development and stand servicing, hospital construction and the construction of a technical college for the town.

The housing waiting list currently stands over 10 000.

Mr Ramakgapola added Beitbridge had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SDP Africa for development of 2 000 stands and Forit Construction to develop 500 housing units or stands.

He revealed that ZB Bank had also committed to developing 150 housing units in the high-density areas.

So far 16 blocks of flats to house 64 families, mainly civil servants, 250 core houses for home ownership, 52 F14 houses for civil servants, road dualisation, upgrading water supply and sewer infrastructure have been completed.

The construction of institutional facilities such as a hospital, primary school, secondary school, civic centre, Government composite office block, modern truck inn, shopping complex, a five-star hotel, an aerodrome and the upgrading of the current border post to meet world- class standards are part of the Beitbridge development programme.

Two-thirds of these projects are nearing completion, while others have been completed and some are at various stages of construction.

It is, however, understood that Government needs US$10 million to complete outstanding civil works.

Mr Ramakgapola said Zinwa had upgraded the water purification plant but there is need to improve the capacity of the reservoirs so that they receive all the water.

“Further, we need to construct a big reservoir on top of Mawale Mountain which upon completion will ensure the whole town gets water through gravity,” said the town secretary.

He said they were open to public private partnerships which would speed up completion of the outstanding projects such as the upgrading of roads, Dulibadzimu Clinic, Government flats and the sewer trunk lining among others.

The town’s journey begun in 2006 when Government through the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) sought to give Beitbridge a facelift by granting it town status.

The massive civil works programme is mainly centred on facelifting the once neglected growth point into a modern city.

President Mugabe officially launched the Beitbridge Redevelopment Exercise in 2007 saying Government wanted to turn Beitbridge Growth Point into fully fledged modern city.

He tasked the Ministry of Local Government, National Housing and Public Works to oversee the implementation of the project.

A six-member commission was then set up to oversee and run the project.

The commission’s mandate included the de-linking of the urban and rural set-ups and the sharing of assets, the delimitation of urban and rural boundaries, identifying capital projects for the border town and coming up with an administrative structure.

It was also tasked to work with the rural district council in addressing other cross-cutting issues.

However, the commission’s tenure expired in 2008 and a new town council executive headed by the late Dr Sipho Singo was put in place.

The town has since seen tremendous growth in terms of infrastructure and service delivery.

According to the 2012 population census, the town had a population of 42 218 and 11 959 households and a transit population of 10 000 people.

This number has since increased due to the town’s proximity to South Africa and its economic geographical location.

A total of 170 000 people, 2 100 buses, 25 000 private cars and 15 000 trucks pass through the town every month.

According to the Zim-Asset, the Government’s policy blueprint, Beitbridge is earmarked for projects that improve water supplies and waste water disposal through the construction of urban water supply and sanitation projects.

This will be achieved through the transfer of projects to the local authority.

Source : The Herald