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COVID-19: Nkayi villagers on brink of starvation due to bad road network

By Fortunate Muzarabani

Nkayi villagers in Matabeleland North province are threatened with starvation as the department of social welfare is failing to deliver maize to the district due to the bad state of Bulawayo-Nkayi road.  

This was revealed by the Grain Marking Board management during a Matabeleland North COVID-19 provincial task force meeting.

While presenting a report to Mat North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo, GMB Regional manager Ms Podiso Mafa said Nkayi had the lowest grain stocks for the social welfare food aid scheme due transport-related logistical problems.

She said grain was stuck at the GMB Bulawayo depot as transporters were refusing to transport it to Nkayi district due to the bad state of Nkayi road.

“Every district currently has some maize for social welfare purposes. The current balance of maize as of yesterday was 3900 metric tonnes. Binga has 285 metric tonnes, Hwange 659metric tonnes Lupane 520, Lusulu with highest of 2055 metric tonnes. Nkayi district has the least of 48 metric tonnes,” she said.

“We have a serious challenge with Nkayi because most of our transporters are reluctant to ply that route because of the bad state of roads. Very, very few transporters want to go to Nkayi because of the terrain honourable minister. I think something has to be done or else we will fail to move that grain. Stocks are there in Bulawayo depot but we are failing to get transporters who are willing to go to Nkayi.”

Mafa added: “We are in the process of moving grain as we speak right now. We want to decongest Bulawayo. All the grain in Bulawayo has to be moved to the provinces. Grain in Bulawayo is going as far as Mat North, Mat South, Midlands and as far as Masvingo but we have enough grain to cover the month of April as we speak.

She said the social welfare had distributed fifty percent of the monthly requirement of 2590 metric for Matabeleland North Province.

“If social welfare has enough transport, we are ready to distribute 100 percent of the monthly required grain. All districts have enough grain, the only district that has a deficit to match its monthly requirement is Nkayi otherwise all other districts have enough grain as we speak,” said Mafa.

CITE Spoke to Mat North Minister Moyo who said he was engaging relevant departments to get the roads fixed so that food could reach Nkayi people who had become cut off due to bad roads.

“I said the roads department in the ministry must temporarily grade the roads so that transporters can transport grain to Nkayi because the maize is there but the road is in a bad state,” said Minister Moyo.

“I told the acting engineer for the province that they must talk to Nkayi RDC and Bubi and Tsholotsho so that they fix roads temporarily so that trucks can be able to deliver grain to the people. They will start road resurfacing after lockdown but for now so that we get food to people they must grade the roads,” said the minister.

“Tsholotsho road also needs grading and I have asked that something also be done about it. Maize is there but cannot reach the people because the roads are badly damaged. Something is being done about it,” he said.

Some Nkayi villagers who spoke to cite through telephone interviews said in previous years they had been made to contribute money for transport where haulage trucks would deliver grain but said they were being told by the social welfare employees that no haulage truck owner so far was willing to release a car.

Thembani Mlotshwa from Nesigwe in Nkayi said families in parts of Nkayi were fully dependant on the drought relief programme grain due to the bad performance of crops in the 2019 to 2020 farming season and said the bad state of roads was threatening to cut them off from their only source of food.

“For years we have been contributing money to get grain here but now the department of social welfare people are saying truck companies are refusing to come because we have no roads. This means that our children are going to go hungry because nobody wants to fix this road for us. Even buses are a problem sometimes. Nobody wants to ply this route, those that come charge very high fees but you would not blame them because the road is pathetic their vehicles get damaged,” said Mlotshwa.

Norman Ndlovu from Sivalo in Nkayi who runs a general dealer shop said the bad state of the road is negatively impacting on deliveries to his shop.

“We hope Government or the ministry that deals with roads can do something because as businessmen we are also suffering as it is difficult to get goods to Nkayi because of the road,” said Ndlovu.

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