SOUTHERN NEWS | Bulawayo: From industrial to church hub

From industrial to church hub

ONCE regarded as the country’s industrial hub, Zimbabwe’s second largest city has suffered what probably ranks as the worst job carnage, occasioned by the deteriorating economic situation that has led to seismic company closures, with churches now occupying buildings that used to be a hive of industrial activity.

The city is now a pale shadow of its former self after it was turned into a ghost town by gross maladministration, corruption, marginalisation and utter ignorance by those in power.

Bulawayo had deservedly earned the moniker koNtuntu Ziyathunqa, loosely translated to mean a place that continually exudes smoke, but not anymore.

Its industry has literally become a grave site, with no production taking place.

Zimbabwe’s second largest city was influential and crucial in the country’s production and manufacturing sector.

Analysts this week said a string of government programmes initiated in the past two decades to revive the city’s collapsed industries have turned out to be nothing but cheap politicking, as the reality on the ground speaks of a totally different story.

Lack of sound policies, among other deficiencies, have led to a sad scenario where many factories in the city’s industrial sites are now abandoned, with churches taking over.

According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), close to 100 firms have closed down or relocated from Bulawayo in the past decade or so.

Enter an abandoned factory in the once-pristine metropolis of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, one comes face-to-face with the sad reality of how stubborn problems of de-industrialisation have spawned long grasses and bushes growing, while the abandoned equipment is rusting.

The abandoned factory shells have, however, become the new home to worshippers, who have since invaded the idle warehouses.

Some of the churches that have taken over the industrial shells include Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church, which is now using the once buzzing factory of one of the city’s biggest textile companies, Textile Mills, which employed hundreds of workers during its peak.

Also occupying the Thorngroove industrial area is Blessing Chiza’s Eagle Life Assembly.

Another new entrant in the industrial area is one led by controversial South Africa-based Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church in Belmont.

This is just but to mention a few notable ones.

A tour of Belmont, Kelvin and Thorngroove industrial sites this week revealed a shocking upsurge in the number of churches finding home in the area, which used to be hive of activity before the economy collapsed. If truth be told, the population density of churches in the industrial area is something that can no longer be ignored.

With new pentecostal churches being formed while new pastors and prophets emerge almost daily, the growth of the church industry is now a remarkable phenomenon.

Affirmative Action Group (AAG) regional president Reginald Shoko said it was clear that Bulawayo has been turned into a church hub.

“It’s a good and bad like scenario. On one hand, it’s great that we have a lot more people being saved and knowing the Almighty but on the other, it’s a reflection of the decline in industry as more churches occupy the industrial sites,” he said.

“The continued closure of companies is leaving big space unoccupied which pastors are taking advantage of as the once mighty former industrial hub of Zimbabwe has been turned into church hub.”

Shoko, however, said the new development spoke highly about the state of the economy, rather than the church.

“ . . . the scenario is a reflection of the decline of the economy, which demands that all of us act to reverse it”.

Christian Alliance director Useni Sibanda added that churches were simply capitalising on the cheap facilities.

“The issue of unemployment and closure of industries has seen the majority of people in Zimbabwe also turning to divine intervention, as you may be aware that the majority of us are Christians,” Sibanda said.

“Naturally, the closure of industries has opened up cheap and affordable spaces for the churches. Not that we are rejoicing that industry is down but that it’s cheaper since the economy has negatively impacted on everyone,” he said.

Sibanda attributed the whole scenario to rampant corruption and poor governance in the country.

Buy Zimbabwe economist Kipson Gundani said churches have become a business on their own.

“There is no more industrial activity and the church business is growing in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“You have a property and you find the next person to lease to and that becomes the church,” he said, adding that the long-suffering Zimbabwean have found solace in church in the face of biting economic hardships.

“Zimbabweans are increasingly becoming poorer and desperate and as a result, they seek God. So, that justifies the whole issue why churches are all over,” he said.

Ray Motsi of the Zimbabwe Theological College said it was sad that there was no industry to talk about in the city.

“It’s sad and we now have churches mushrooming all over. There is nothing wrong with that. In a way it’s part of business in the sense that most of these churches are now into business.”

Government has in the past introduced several facilities such as the Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund (Dimaf) and the Zimbabwe Economic Trade Revival Facility to revive the collapsed Bulawayo industries.

However, most of the companies that accessed Dimaf remained in the doldrums, as the loans were of a short-term nature, very small and had punitive interest rates.

Some have pinned their hopes on the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) initiative now led by former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono for possible meaningful bail out and revival.

Bulawayo is one of the few chosen for implementation of the SEZs that have been touted as a key pillar in attracting foreign direct investment and creation of employment.


CIO has infiltrated NPP: Sipepa-Nkomo

RECENT resignations in the National People’s Party (NPP) are a result of infiltration by Zanu PF apparatchiks, as well as by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), a senior party official claimed this week.

The newly-formed NPP, led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru, has got off to a rocky start, having been hit by resignations of senior members in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South.

Last month, the party’s Matabeleland South provincial chairperson, Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, and Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Geneva Sibanda resigned from the NPP along with many other disgruntled party members.

Fuzwayo later re-joined the Welshman Ncube-led MDC.

This followed hard on the heels of a string of resignations in the Bulawayo province where disaffected members complained of tribalism, factionalism and disharmony in the party.

NPP vice president Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo who has been accused of leading one of the two factions in the party, said most of the resignations were a plot to dent their leader’s profile. “NPP is infiltrated by Zanu PF and CIOs; they are the ones behind all this (resignations),” Nkomo told the Daily News.

“They are all but stage-managing these so-called resignations and that’s why I am saying it’s infiltration. I recently read elsewhere in the papers that 50 people resigned from the party, honestly can someone stand there and point to me those people who are said to have resigned,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News during her visit to Bulawayo last month, Mujuru cited unnamed infiltrators as the ones behind instability in her party’s Bulawayo structures.

“We are trying to get them to understand the party policy, the values, the regulations and procedures. But because there are infiltrations, if you are not very careful, this will distort the approach, which the party wants to promote,” Mujuru said then.

Asked what the party was doing to deal with the infiltration, Sipepa-Nkomo said: “In any case, those who are resigning mean we are getting rid of infiltration.”

Further quizzed about the faction he is allegedly leading, Nkomo said there was no way he could lead a faction when he was vice president of the party.

“I am not bothered at all by such a claim because we don’t have that factionalism you are talking about.

“I have heard about it. Call them camps or factions. I cannot be part of a faction when I am a vice president, how can I do that.”



Byo to legalise pirate taxis

CITY fathers have all but given in to pressure from residents as they are now reviewing the public transport policy with a view to legalising the activities of pirate taxis, popularly known as mushika-shika.

A resolution to that effect was made last week in council chambers pursuant to a motion moved by Ward Four councillor, Silas Chigora, who is the caucus chair for councillors.

The local authority has been facing serious challenges in trying to control pirate taxis that are operating illegally across the city.

The taxis have become a menace in the central business district, where they pick and drop passengers at undesignated areas.

To bring order in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, council has now resolved to review the yet to be adopted public transport policy, to incorporate pirate taxis.

“The eastern areas have refused the kombi mode of transport and prefer small vehicles (Honda Fits), which are faster and are quick to fill.

“The policy therefore needs an overhaul to include all players and residents must be allowed to choose the service provider they want,” reads part of the resolution passed by the city fathers.

“Small vehicles must be allowed to operate within the confines of the law.

“All must change to red plates, employ qualified and certified drivers and be insured and must be allocated bays to pick from not this chaotic cat and mouse game prevalent in the city.”

Council is of the view that the public transport policy, which seeks to ban operators that function outside the city’s three associations — Bulawayo Public Transporters Association (Bupta), Tshova Mubaiwa Co-operative and Bulawayo City Transit — would improve the public transport situation in the City of Kings.

Each of these associations will be allocated specific routes to operate.

Contacted for comment, Chigora said there was need to strike a balance between the economic forces driving people into operating pirate taxis while at the same time maintaining order in the city.

“We find ourselves in a dilemma trying to enforce order. That is taking away their means of survival,” he told the Daily News.

“Not so long ago, the Honda Fits were not pirating everywhere like this. What has caused this? These small cars are operating like vendors.

“They must not be condemned but managed and one way of managing them is to allocate them designated parking bays to operate from.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend all is well out there. It is better to manage them through a temporary arrangement than allow this chaos to continue unabated,” Chigora said, adding that the public transport policy vision must fully embrace the current economic realities.

While council is still in consultation with the stakeholders concerned, and having already conducted a pre-launch session of the transport policy, some councillors believe that associations must not be forced out of their routes and be made to operate routes they are not comfortable with.

“The issue of three companies being allocated routes and commuters being forced to service them must be investigated.

“Bupta cannot be forced onto routes that were previously operated by Tshova Mubaiwa against commuters’ will,” the resolution said.

Mugabe insult case takes new twist

THE case in which an estate manager at Falcon College was dragged to court recently for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe following an altercation with a subordinate, has taken a new twist with the former applying for referral to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).

While the insult allegations reportedly took place in December last year, the case only got to court this April, as the State awaited authority from the Attorney General to prosecute in terms of Section 34 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.

The manager, 47-year-old Murray Ross Osborne — represented by Tim Cherry of Web, Low and Barry legal practitioners — appeared before Esigodini magistrate Tawanda Muchemwa facing charges of undermining the authority or insulting the president.

In May, Osborne filed an application for exception, arguing the charges were unclear and did not disclose an offence.

But Muchemwa dismissed the application, noting that the charges were straightforward.

Not happy with the decision, Osborne – out on $100 bail – went on to apply for referral to the ConCourt.

The ruling on his application has been set for July 20.

According to State papers, at around 8am on December 14 last year while at Falcon College grounds, the complainant, Bigboy Moyo, employed as a general hand, was tasked by the accused to dig out a sewage pipe.

The court heard that Moyo, however, failed to locate the pipe and this did not go down well with the Osborne, who then allegedly said: “You are stupid like President Gabriel Mugabe”.

It is alleged that the accused went on to tell Moyo that he was free to report him wherever he wanted.

An annoyed Moyo proceeded to file a police report at Esigodini Police Station where the case was referred to Gwanda law and order section, leading Osborne’s arrest.


Working conditions at NRZ deteriorate

WORKERS at the moribund National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) are working under dangerous conditions as the cash-strapped parastatal continues to struggle to acquire the necessary safety clothing and equipment.

NRZ is battling severe under-capitalisation and has gone for several months without paying its workers owing to a worsening cash flow crisis.

Morale at the parastatal has plumbed to its lowest ebb, with working conditions becoming hazardous to its employees.

The Railways Artisans Union (Rau) is bitter that NRZ management is failing to prioritise workers’ safety and welfare.

“At the moment, NRZ workers are not safe at all,” said Rau president Edmore Africa.

“We do not have safety clothing. Again, if you have not been paid for 17 months and you are working on dangerous equipment, clearly one will not be able to concentrate on his or her job.

“The situation is dangerous to the workers,” he added.

He said this while addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Media Centre last week.

While the NRZ board and management are stepping up effort to scout for fresh capital to reboot the parastatal, Rau is adamant that they must not forsake the sanctity of life.

“We are very elated about the recapitalisation because it has a potential of bringing in much-needed working capital and hopefully our parked salaries will also be unlocked,” Africa said.

“The recapitalisation, it would seem, will also bring a restructuring of the workforce or even retrenchment and as a trade union we are very worried by the threat of our members losing work.

“But from where we stand, we believe the NRZ actually has an artisan shortage which we feel should be addressed because at the moment some of our artisans are actually overworked as it is,” Africa said.

The NRZ workers also expressed their concern at the way government has apparently failed to appreciate their commitment to the company which for long has failed to pay them on time while also failing to improve working conditions.

“We are also disturbed by the fact that sometimes we hear ministers advising Parliament that NRZ workers are always idle and playing checkers, commonly referred to as draft or tsoro or intsoro.

“We really do not know where the ministers get this but as a trade union we strongly condemn such kind of talk which demoralises workers and puts them on edge especially during this critical time when we are looking for investors,”


Zanu PF bans unsanctioned meetings at Davies Hall

IN a desperate bid to curb the scourge of violence threatening to tear its provincial structures apart, the ruling Zanu PF party has banned unsanctioned meetings at Davies Hall provincial headquarters.

In May, Davies Hall was turned into a war zone after party members, including youths and war veterans from rival Zanu PF factions, were involved in a bloody clash that left one hospitalised.

And only last week, during an ex-liberation fighters meeting meant to pass a vote of no confidence against  War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube, youths belonging to a rival Zanu PF faction stormed the indaba and briefly disrupted the meeting.

Following the incidents, Zanu PF provincial chair, Dennis Ndlovu, said future meetings at Davies Hall must be approved first.

“Davies Hall meetings must be cleared; it must be made a peaceful place not a war zone.

“So what we have now decided is if people are going to Davies Hall, there should be a reason, not just going for the sake of going,” he said.

“We are really worried about this kind of behaviour,” Ndlovu told the Daily News.

He said they were working with police to ensure that the party offices are not turned into a “playground”.

“We have engaged the police to help us in that regard.

“We now need booked meetings or events, not      to have everybody coming in as they please because it makes it difficult for us to manage such incidents as violence,” Ndlovu said.

He said the chaos in the city has been caused by a few misguided individuals whom “we don’t know who they represent”.

“ . . . in politics, squabbles are normal and it’s also happening to other parties but the fact is as a province we will still be united, come elections you will see,” he said.


Safety concerns for Sipepa hospital staff

STAFF at Sipepa Rural District Hospital in Tsholotsho North, are risking their lives by staying in structures that have been condemned by government as unfit for habitation following the heavy rains that pounded the area during the summer cropping season.

Government, through the department of Public Works, has condemned all staff houses at Sipepa, which means that the health facility must either rehabilitate them or at find alternative accommodation for its staff members.

Due to lack of alternative accommodation, staff at the hospital continues to reside in the unsafe buildings, posing serious danger to the occupants.

Tsholotsho District medical officer Ntombiyakogasa Sithole confirmed the development to the Daily News, describing the situation as dire.

“Staff houses are the worst affected, almost all of them were recently condemned by the public works, which means they are no longer safe for people to occupy,” she said.

The medical officer said the damage inflicted on the structures was so bad that renovating them was no longer an option.

“They are just no longer in good shape. They have huge cracks, which happened as a result of the floods that hit Tsholotsho,” she said, adding that “as a result, the houses now need to be rebuilt”.

Sithole further noted that in addition to the looming accommodation crisis, the hospital had its kitchen and mortuary left incomplete for years, a development that has also jeopardised patients’ welfare.

“ . . . this has forced our cooks to cook outside the hospital building, which is not healthy,” she said.

Sipepa Hospital — under Chief Mathupula — caters for wards 1, 2, 3,4 and 5, with the next accessible health facility being Tsholotsho Hospital, about 75 kilometres away.

It had been home to hundreds of flood victims for months, before they were recently relocated to new stands.

Displaced victims pitched tents in the hospital’s yard, as government and non-governmental organisations collectively took responsibility of their welfare.

Tsholotsho North legislator Jonathan Moyo’s personal assistant, Shepherd Honzeri, told the Daily News that efforts were underway to abate the possible closure.

“We are already seized with the matter and we are working together with the Local Government ministry in trying to ensure that new and proper accommodation is immediately put in place,” he said.

“The Public Works Department has already taken quotations of the costs. Moyo has bought a brick moulding machine and we have already engaged the community in an effort to ensure that we arrest possible disaster.”

Cont’s wife carries the dream

VETERAN arts administrator and founder of Amakhosi Cultural Centre Continueloving Mhlanga might have moved to build his new empire away from the madding crowd, down deep in Lupane rural, but his dream continues to live.

His wife Thembi Ngwabi, better known as Ugogo, has taken over the reins at the once eventful Amakhosi Cultural Centre.

While not much of arts activities are taking place, Cont’s wife has chosen to do it her own way.

The disturbances at the city’s once home of arts, started last year when the centre was said to have been awarded a commercial radio broadcasting licence in which Mhlanga was the chief executive officer.

The hype accompanied with enthusiasm was naturally created and the long-drawn renovations started, albeit destroying what has been the traditional hub of arts in the city.

When the now popular radio station Skyz FM Metro started broadcasting from the centre, not long did they take before  relocating from the Amakhosi to one of the skyscrapers of the CBD where they felt there was better connectivity.

Forget all about the almost year-long renovations that took place, in the end the place was abandoned due to its low-lying location.

Skyz Metro FM chief executive officer Qhubani Moyo told the Daily News at the launch of the station that they were forced to abandon Amakhosi due to transmission problems.

“When we were at Amakhosi from September 11 up to around November 30, we had challenges of transmission,” Moyo said.

“We were doing pre-recorded programmes. Most of the time, we had problems of getting things in order properly . . . and we tried to do the live broadcasting but we had challenges in that Amakhosi is a low-lying area from Transmedia.

“As a result, we had problems in terms of buffering of the Internet, which would cut on and off, so we thought we needed a higher ground that’s why we took advantage of Pioneer House where we have a clear link with Transmedia,” he explained.

Moyo was, however, quick to say they haven’t really abandoned Amakhosi.

“We realised that we have young talented artistes, including adults who want to record their music so we will use Amakhosi as the hub of music,” he said.

With Skyz Metro no longer at Amakhosi, according to the woman in charge, Ngwabi said its business as usual at Amakhosi.

“Lately, we have been concentrating on doing festivals but mostly workshops to do with music and dance,” Ngwabi said.

“We recently had a carnival, which we named Epupu Shangani Carnival which took place on June 17 in Lupane and it’s going to be an annual event,” she said.

But away from many activities that Amakhosi used to be known for, Ngwabi said lately their main focus is on workshops.

“We are doing dance and music workshops throughout the country. We are doing schools and colleges and so far so good, we are receiving overwhelming response.

“We are mainly focusing on traditional dance and music that means we are mostly looking at our culture and originality,” she said.

“Last week we were at Masvingo Teachers College for three days and this week we focusing on Matobo then Tsholotsho as the programme continues,” she added.

Ngwabi said some of the programmes they had intended to carry out at Amakhosi, were grossly affected by lack of funding hence having to resort to the manageable programmes.

Contacted for comment Cont Mhlanga said all the questions about Amakhosi can no longer be directed to him but to his wife as he was now a “village boy”.

Comments (1)

church leaders have a duty to lead by example at societal level bcoz if their works of faith does not surpass those who used to occupy those industries in colonial or post colonial era then their faith irregardless of the rampant miracles is dead no wonder some have abhoring comments claiming their zeals of owning continents,,,they actually petict non existence of evangelistic individuals in society who have ability to observe or visualize their activities ,,some even claiming they are above the church,,,GOVT ,ZIMRA must simply charge them a development tax or negligent tax or a TAKEOVER TAX related to the past gdp of the workers who lost jobs at the same industrial complexes and transparently use those funds to revive the same type of firms elsewhere in same provinceOTHERWISE all evangelists will splush themselves with private jets while out of congregations environments non church going members suffer to develop in better more accountable ways

brighht chako - 13 August 2017

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