MUTARE – A woman said to be the daughter of the late liberation war stalwart, Kumbirai Kangai, has been living in a rundown rural mental hospital without any visitors for nearly 40 years now, the Eastern News can report.
Rukariro Rehabilitation Centre, 72 kilometres west of the eastern city, is dilapidated, under-staffed and poorly funded. It has not received any government social services grant for years.
The institution basically survives on the benevolence of its matron and handouts from good Samaritans, who are far and in-between.
A committed group of villagers, who pity the 46 inmates, and 10 children that were born to parents confined at the institution, tends to a gardening project at Rukariro to supplement its income.
The story of Era Kangai, believed to be the daughter of the former Cabinet minister, who died in August 2013 and was declared a national hero, is heartrending.
She was checked into the mental institution way back in 1979. This was the period when her alleged father was fighting to remove the brutal Ian Smith regime from power.
An account that could not be verified with Kangai’s surviving children is that the late national hero had Era with a woman who also took up arms at the later stages of the liberation struggle, but no one knows her whereabouts.
Kangai operated in Mozambique and was a member of Dare Rechimurenga.
Back then, Rukariro Rehabilitation Centre was still located at Sakubva District Hospital.
In years that followed, the centre was moved to its current remote location after its old premises at Sakubva District Hospital were condemned by the ministry of Health and Child Care.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa and the special advisor to the president, Timothy Stamps, led the condemnation in 2013.
“This is a prison,” Parirenyatwa said then, upon entry into a small cubical that was used as a holding cell.
Stamps was more scathing in his condemnation.
He was quoted wondering aloud during the tour of the facility: “There was a lot of money that was provided for psychiatric care after the war . . . this should be a museum of what the Rhodesians did for us.”
The matron, Everjoice Musasa, confirmed Era’s family ties.
“Yes, Era is the late Kumbirai Kangai’s daughter, but I have never heard from his family over the past 37 years that she has been in rehabilitation,” Musasa said.
She said Era is the only patient they know of in the institution whose family is known.
“We don’t know the families of the rest of the patients. While some are from Mozambique, most of them are clearly of Zimbabwean descent,” Musasa said.
Her patients are often brought into the institution by ambulances from the ministry of Health and Child Care and their relatives never get to check on them.
“Because of the stigma related to mental health, people do not look for their mentally ill relatives once they go missing. I would like to call upon everyone who has a missing relative to come through and look at these people,” Musasa said.
Musasa never takes an off day and is herself a permanent resident at the asylum.
So committed is Musasa that she would not give up any of the 10 children at the institution for adoption because of the strong attachment she has forged with them.
But looking at their situation, the children could do well in an orphanage.
“I nursed most of these children from infancy and I consider them my children and treat them as such,” Musasa said.
The aging psychiatric nurse, who never had children of her own and has no love life, is content with giving her life to the mental patients.
“I’m happy as I’m and these are my family,” she said.
“We have not had any government grant in a while and I move around in Mutare asking companies to assist. Arabs and Indians have been very generous and have consistently been supporting us,” she said.
Ironically, the institution is Manicaland’s sole psychiatric health detention institution.
The absence of a psychiatric hospital in the eastern border city has resulted in mental health patients roaming the streets, endangering both their lives and others.
In fact, one of the inmates from Rukariro Rehabilitation Centre died a tragic death last year after she was run over by a vehicle in the city centre.
She had gone into the city with a group of locals who wanted to attend a church conference.
She was survived by her three children who were without any known relatives.
Mutare Bottling retrenches
Beverages manufacturer Mutare Bottling Company (MBC) has retrenched 61 employees.
Managing director Allen Lang said MBC was cutting back on staff at the main plant and at its Rusape depot as it streamlines its operations to survive the harsh operating environment.
MBC will continue to explore ways of staying afloat in spite of the hostile business terrain.
“MBC confirms that 61 employees have been affected by the restructuring of the business in response to the prevailing economic conditions,” said Lang.
“The employees included those from the Rusape depot, which was closed as part of the restructuring,” Lang told the Eastern News.
In 2014, the company commissioned a $17 million automated bottling plant that also resulted in some of its employees losing their jobs.
The plant had the effect of boosting production by as much as 400 percent, producing 30 000 bottles per hour, up from between 6 000 to 10 000 bottles per day.
The bottler holds the Coca-Cola franchise for the Manicaland region and had in excess of 250 employees.
The company is 63 percent owned by telecommunications group, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.
Lions terrorise Chipinge villagers
Villagers here are living in constant fear of marauding lions that wandered off the Save Conservancy, and have been unable to go back into the vast animal sanctuary after they were cut off by the flooding of Save River during the rainy season.
The lions stray out of the conservancy since the electronic perimeter fence was vandalised.
The problem worsened when the Save River flooded, forcing the lions to established themselves in mountain ranges in communal lands.
This has pitted the big cats in perpetual conflict with villagers who have lost hundreds of cattle in areas such as Chibuwe, Masimbe, Gumira, Maronga and Middle Sabi — closer to Save River.
They are now wandering as far afield as Ngaone.
“Lions have, for years, given birth in mangroves across the river from the game reserve. These lions have always been a menace as they would take down cattle even during the day, along Save River,” said Save-Odzi Community Development Trust vice chairperson, Isaac Ziwenjere.
He said the cats have been a menace on either side of Save Conservancy with Buhera and Bikita villagers also suffering huge losses of their domestic animals.
The Zimbabwe Wildlife and National Parks (Zimparks) recently shot a three-year-old lion at Bangwe after it had preyed on livestock.
But rarely does that happen, leaving villagers to devise ways of defending themselves.
About two years ago, a pride of lions took down two cattle in Taona Village, as the owner was driving them from the dip tank.
Officers from the Zimparks were called, but they never showed, according to Ziwenjere.
This has led the villagers to taking the law into their own hands.
“Last year in March, three lions that had caused havoc were poisoned. I’m sure who ever poisoned them did so because a man from Musani area had killed a lion with a bow and arrow which villagers ate only for Zimparks officials to try and hunt him down.
“They only managed to recover its head and, as locals, we felt they were being hypocritical as they don’t show up when we make our reports but only became interested when a lion was killed,” Ziwenjere said.
Efforts to get a comment from Zimparks officials were fruitless at the time of going to print.
Roadblock cuts good for tourism: Hotel
Listed hospitality giant, African Sun Limited (ASL), has applauded government for directing the police to reduce the number of roadblocks on the country’s highways saying it will open up the eastern border city to tourists.
Visitors to the mountainous city were going through as many as 14 check points during their 260km journey from Harare, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, which had made the region unattractive to tourists.
ASL managing director Edwin Shangwa said by slashing the number of roadblocks to four per province, travel to the eastern region will improve.
“The streamlining of police roadblocks to allow the smooth movement of tourists by road will make Mutare attractive as a tourist destination,” he said during the re-branding of ASL’s Amber Hotel to Holiday Inn Mutare at the weekend.
The Eastern Highlands operates several world-class tourist attractions.
But unlike other tourist attractions such as the Great Zimbabwe, Kariba and Victoria Falls, which enjoy air connectivity, the region is only accessible by road.
The heavy presence of traffic police had therefore made the area unattractive to visitors, dealing a hammer blow to sites such as Mt Inyangani, Mtarazi Falls, Vumba, Chimanimani Mountain range, Chirinda Forest in Chipinge and several game reserves.
To encourage bookings, a popular hotel in the Vumba area was said to have promised to refund its clients any of the often-frivolous police fines issued upon checking in into the hotel.
The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) recently bemoaned the prevalence of police on highways, saying this was giving the impression that the country was not at peace.
ZNCC chief executive officer Chris Mugaga said Zimbabwe had one of the highest number of police roadblocks in Africa, now comparable to Mali, which in 2011, was the worst at 2,5 in every 100km.
“As of December 2015, there were still at least 20 road blocks between Beitbridge — on the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa — and the resort town of Victoria Falls. This implies 2,5 roadblocks every 100km,” Mugaga said.
Transport operators had to down their tools recently in protest over the heavy police presence on the country’s roads, also alleging they were extorting money from them.
Never Jekese, an economist, said the police road blocks were sending the wrong message to investors and visitors for an industry which has the potential to generate $5 billion annually.
“We may complain about having a good image internationally but the sheer number of police roadblocks tells all visitors that there is something wrong going on apart from pushing the cost of doing business,” Jekese said.
Chimene snubs Tshinga Dube
Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene snubbed a provincial conference organised by the Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators (Ziliwaco) over the weekend.
Chimene could not attend the provincial conference held at Queens Hall despite having been invited to officiate the event.
Instead, she showed up at a glitzy re-branding ceremony for a city hotel held in the central business district.
Speculation has it that Chimene snubbed the Ziliwaco event because of her deep dislike for War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube who had been invited to attend the same event.
Dube has refused to recognise a grouping of war veterans led by Chimene, which at some point attempted to wrest the leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).
Chimene’s group was dealt a body blow after a Harare court ruled that the ZNLWVA executive, led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, was the legitimate leadership of the association.
They were also told to stop masquerading as ZNLWVA leaders.
Mutsvangwa and his executive have been a pain in President Robert Mugabe’s backside ever since the war veterans issued a stinging communiqué, disparaging his leadership.
Since then, Chimene has been trying in vain to wrest ZNLWVA’s leadership from Mutsvangwa, who remains firmly in position in spite of his dismissal from Zanu PF.
Mutsvangwa also lost his ministerial position, which was later filled by Dube.
Chimene’s faction of war veterans demonstrated at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare last week against Dube, who took sides with war veterans calling on Mugabe to name his successor.
At the Ziliwaco conference, Dube assured his audience that government fully recognises the role of war collaborators during the war of liberation.
As such, he said government has begun a vetting process to document them.
He then took a thinly-veiled dig at Chimene, challenging her to state where she operated from during the war of liberation.
“Some people who claim to be loyal need to be closely examined. Some of them are not like you. You can tell me where you were operating from as war collaborators. Ask them where they were operating from. Ask them. Vet them,” said Dube.
“ . . . Is there any part of the country that has no name? They should be able to state where they were. If you ask and they stutter, know that they are war veterans in inverted commas. But some of them are the loudest. Some even claim to be leaders of war veterans. How can you be a war veteran when you are not a war veteran? We should ask all these people,” Dube said.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga dismissed Chimene last year as a mere cleaner during the war following her public attack of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“This nonsense of someone who was at a refugee camp or was a cleaner moving around telling people that he or she fought in the struggle is just that — nonsense. Wakarwa hondo kupi? (Where did you operate from?)
“People can smoke marijuana, it is within their rights. Even if it’s to do with traditional spirits, go ahead and smoke — (just) don’t disturb us because we have lost thousands of innocent sons and daughters,” Chiwenga said then.
Council offers ASL Christmas Pass Mountain
Council has offered five hectares of land up the Christmas Pass Mountain to African Sun Limited to build an exquisite hotel.
Town Clerk Joshua Maligwa made the official offer after being challenged to do so by the Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene.
“African Sun, I’m declaring this yours. Come let’s talk. This is time to exercise my powers. We don’t have enough rooms if we are to host big events. People go as far as Nyanga just to sleep and come back to attend conferences,” he said.
Maligwa said his administration was already servicing the site.
“We are already servicing the land and there is space for two hotels with the other stand measuring 3,5 hectares,” he said, adding that this was in line with council’s efforts to attract investment into the city.
“We have always wanted a magnificent five-star hotel up the Christmas Pass Mountain. So we have got two stands; one measuring 3,5 hectares and the other 5,5 hectares.
“We are so excited that Holiday Inn has come to Mutare and we are looking forward to have a better, if not a magnificent five-star hotel,” Maligwa said.
“We can negotiate with them on how they are supposed to pay up. They can build and we can give them an incentive of allowing them to build and then they pay later after like three to five years,” he added.
Chimene said there were hardly any new buildings in the eastern border city with the exception of Golden Peacock Villa Hotel built by the Chinese a few years ago.
“If our former colonisers come back and ask us what we have constructed over the past 37 years of independence, we have nothing to show (for it), perhaps only Golden Peacock,” she said.