The shrill blast of bus horns competing with the clashing sounds of Ndolowani music from beer outlets, welcomes travellers. Amid the noise, a cow followed by her calf searches for something to eat in an overflowing refuse bin, a few donkeys are scratching their flea-infested bodies against a shop wall and scraggy goats stroll around without any restraint.
Development has certainly eluded Nkayi, a dusty spot 168 km north-east of Bulawayo. Despite vast, surrounding indigenous timber plantations, it lags behind in infrastructure development when compared to other districts. The main commercial activities consist of bottle stores, general dealers and a guest house.
The strip of road that links it with Bulawayo, littered with potholes and narrow bridges, is blamed for multiple accidents.
Battling the odds
“Since Nkayi centre was declared a growth point in the late 80's, it has battled many odds. The major challenges facing the centre are shortage of water, lack of communication and poor road infrastructure. This has led to potential investors shunning the place,” said Kufakwezwe Ncube, the local councillor.
Located in Matabeleland North province, the district has also earned notoriety for allegedly harbouring illegal gold prospectors, who are blamed for the increase in cases of murder and rape.
Ncube, who is also the former chairperson of the Nkayi Rural District Council (NRDC), said recreational facilities were virtually non-existent and unemployment levels very high. Unemployed youth spend time roaming the business centre and supporting the thriving bottle stores.
The councillor is of the opinion that the centre will not attract serious investors unless the government and local council join hands. They need to put in place solid infrastructure facilities to attract would-be investors.
“This place has abundant natural resources such as timber and wildlife. We also have the advantage of being close to Gwayi Shangani dam where we could draw water from,” he said.
Gideon Ndlovu, one of the first black businessmen to open shops in the early 1970's, is not happy with the rate of economic growth.
“We need commercial banks. We also need services such as wholesalers, pharmacies and funeral parlours. For essential services, we have to travel all the way to Kwekwe or Bulawayo,” said Ndlovu, who owns a general dealership and a grinding mill.
Nkayi Rural District Hospital mortuary has not been operating properly for the past six years, forcing villagers to resort to traditional methods of preserving bodies.
“It is a major concern for council that the hospital mortuary does not function properly. When there are fatal road accidents, we often have no option but to take bodies to the mortuary. Even villagers who are admitted at the hospital and pass away are just deposited at the mortuary. The bodies decompose quickly and in most cases relatives don’t get the chance to view the bodies of their loved ones,” said councillor Ncube.
Ncube says that although repeated appeals to both the government and the private sector for assistance have so far not yielded any positive results, the Nkayi Rural District Council plans to embark on an expansion project that will include the constructing of a business centre and a low income residential settlement. Under this ambitious project, industrial zones, affordable high density suburbs and recreational facilities are set to be constructed.Post published in: Economy