Hungry in the land of plenty Part 3 – The story of Mahenye

Tonje Sifelani

Despite all the above mentioned smiles attached to the Hlengweni territory, Mahenye suffers a plethora and myriad of challenges.

For a start, the place is just inaccessible especially during rainy seasons. The Jamanda and Dakata rivers become just impassable and communication is hampered by erratic mobile network.

A lot of four-wheel drive traffic plies the route for tourism, community development and other reasons that the road is left wanting especially after the rainy season. Sometimes stakeholders such as Greenfuel and its subsidiaries chip in with machinery to alleviate road challenges.

Despite the place being home to the opulent Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, grinding poverty can be observed on most peasants’ faces nowadays. It used a different story some years ago during the peak of CAMPFIRE that we mentioned earlier in the article.

CAMPFIRE was introduced in Mahenye by Clive Glenn Stockil and Mr Masango. Under the programme, proceed from sustainable hunting of wild animals found in safari areas are shared as follows: a rural district council 40 percent, CAMPFIRE Association 5 percent and the community 55 percent.

CAMPFIRE is no longer viable as it used to be owing to the discouragement of consumptive tourism in favour of non-consumptive one.

As a result, many residents who used to benefit from huge CAMPFIRE payouts are grumbling that the community is suffering. They also claim that the few hunters who come there are sometimes attempted not to pay the money in time or at all.

Peasants are not happy that their crops are always destroyed by elephants and buffaloes but they get swindled along the way in the CAMPFIRE matrix.

The other issue of concern is that of violent poachers who frequent the area for dark business. Very expensive vehicles can be found at night frequenting the area trying their hand on poaching and stock theft.

Most culturists feel that even if Xangani is now recognised as one of the 16 official languages in Zimbabwe, it’s taking too long to have Xangani syllabi for it to be able to be taught in schools.

They fear that very soon, Xangani language might be swallowed again by other languages. Mahenye secondary school has a roughly enrolment of 250 students and staff compliment of five teachers as the primary school has 925 pupils and twenty teachers.

For learners, some pupils walk long distances to and from such as those form Ndhlondhlo, a distance of 8Km. Nowhere is the challenge more felt than for the children of Chipote.

This is nerve-wreaking and heartrending to see an ECD child trudging the 10km stretch to Maparadze to go to school in the rain and wild animal inhabited terrain! Indeed, cry the children of Chipote.

The menace of animals forces the schools to start late and dismiss too early, have a severely limited curriculum of less than eight subjects. Both the primary and secondary do not have computers to expose the pupils to ICT learning in schools. This limits the scope of the child once one tries to pursue science subjects.

Johanne Sithole put is in this way: “Kunga hava vako xikolwe, kuhava vutomi” (Absence of schools means absence of life opportunities.)

Lastly, the there are cases of early childhood marriages. It is sad that at one point one custodian of Tsonga/Xangani tradition was found on the wrong side of law on child marriage allegations.

To be continued….

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