The government is still struggling to complete Elitsheni Government Complex in Lupane which is set to house its departments, 17 years since the project started.
The construction of the complex began in 2004 following the granting of provincial capital status to Lupane in 1999.
Prior to that, Bulawayo was the provincial capital for Matabeleland North. However, 21 years down the line, most Matabeleland North government departments are still operating from the Mhlahlandlela Government Complex in Bulawayo, a situation that continues to disenfranchise citizens who are forced to travel long distances from rural Matabeleland North in order to access basic government services.
The government has repeatedly failed to honour its promises to have the structure in Lupane completed.
In 2019, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister, Richard Moyo said by February 2020 all government departments would have relocated to Lupane with the complex having been completed but that is still yet to happen.
This Tuesday Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa claimed the building would be complete before year end.
ZAPU spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa, believes the delays speak to the marginalisation of Matabeleland which is still smarting from “Gukurahundi destruction of its infrastructure and social services.”
“The region has featured in empty manifestos of both ZANU-PF and the main opposition party in its many fractions,” said Maphosa.
Delays in the completion of the complex according to Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president, Mqondisi Moyo, is a serious setback for the people of Matabeleland North.
“It means they (people) have to travel to Bulawayo to access services which they should be getting locally,” he said.
“This results in some failing to get the needed services due to lack of transport fares. The worst result is that many miss opportunities unnecessarily because of the distance they have to travel to Bulawayo. In fact, the delay is against devolution which should see services and power cascading down to the people.”
Moyo said citizens no longer believe the government’s promises.
“No one in their right senses will believe the government’s promise to complete the project by year end,” he said.
He said the solution to the marginalisation of the region lies in the full-implementation of devolution.
“Devolution is the answer,” said Moyo.
“If Matabeleland people were given the authority, the project would have been completed by now. The problem is that it is in the hands of the wrong people, people who are not concerned about development in Matabeleland.”
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya is of the view that the government is not interested in the development of Matabeleland.
“It is a fallacy of untold proportions to even imagine that the government has an interest in improving its services to Matabeleland,” Ngwenya told CITE.
“This province has been for years associated with opposition politics. Token ruling parties MPs and councillors in that region are used for electoral illusions. Lupane will remain a windswept outpost branded only as a ‘university centre’ run from Harare.”
He said it is unfortunate that the government pays lip service to devolution.
“They don’t know what it means and they survive on centralised decision making as a means of hegemony. If it has taken 50 years to even talk about Matabeleland Zambezi water; if Joshua Nkomo’s Ekusileni Medical Centre has been abandoned for 30 years, what makes us think these guys can be taken seriously? It’s a holographic campaign strategy. Everything about Matabeleland is the 2023 campaign.”
Ngwenya said the solution lies in all legislators in the region setting an official opening date for the complex to force the government into delivery.
“Petitions should be written and civil society organisations should invest in lobbying,” he added.