Ray Bande Senior Reporter
WHEN Cde Batsirayi Pemhenayi (Zanu- PF) won the Mutare North seat in 2013 with the highest vote cast in Manicaland, he had a huge challenge to reciprocate the gesture and justify his worth. He was 27 years and the youngest MP.
He inherited an underdeveloped constituency. The infrastructure was poor as some of whose roads were last refurbished in 1980. Poverty levels were very high and the onus was on him to explore ways to develop infrastructure and improve people’s livelihoods. Mr Dennis Mukwechero, of Muatanda West, said Cde Pemhenayi has not disappointed.
“I started living in this area in 1981 and have seen different MPs – the likes of Cdes Morton Malianga, Chris Mushowe and Charles Pemhenayi – come and go. I can say Cde Pemhenayi (Jnr) has achieved a lot as MP, for example, the Odzi-Sabi Drift and Shamu-Mt Zuma roads were refurbished for the first time since independence. He is the only MP since 1980, who managed to do that, so he deserves our vote.
“A number of clinics and schools have been assisted in the constituency. The good thing about him is he spreads development equally across the constituency. He doesn’t pick and overlook some areas,” said Mr Mukwechero.
Cde Pemhenayi has assisted 398 families during bereavement, translating to an average of 100 families per year.
“He assists with coffins and food during funerals. This has endeared him with the grassroots, most of whom lacked means to decently bury their loved ones. This is the humane side of Cde Pemhenayi, and we appreciate it,” said Mr Mukwechero.
War veteran Cde Robert Gumbo spoke glowingly of Cde Pemhenayi’s visibility and efforts to develop the constituency. He said Cde Pemhenayi’s first year was problematic as he was invisible and bunked parliament.
“I think Cde Pemhenayi has performed and acquitted himself very well in Mutare North. He has been visible and approachable. Yes, we had times when constituents of Mutare North thought they had made a mistake by voting him into office. That was during the first year he was not visible. He was still a novice and was learning the ropes.
“We now appreciate what he is doing in the constituency. He masterminded a good number of developmental and livelihood projects, especially women and youths. That is commendable. We understand that as MP, he is not there to give us handouts, but we really appreciate his philanthropy.
The other good thing about him is that he is a product of the youth league. He has been a good ambassador of the youth league, and youths must be nurtured into these leadership positions. We have done our part as the elderly and it is time to pass the baton to youngsters,” said Cde Gumbo.
Mr Noah Mukudu said roads in Mutare North need consistent refurbishment to give farmers easy access to markets.
“I think the MP needs to do more to maintain roads in this constituency. Yes, he has been doing it, but there is still room for improvement. Some of the roads are now impassable,” said Mr Mukudu.
Cde Pemhenayi said there were some areas that require attention and will work towards addressing them. He promised to engage Government, Mutare RDC and NGOs to ameliorate development in Mutare North.
“It is true that there are some roads that require immediate attention as they have deteriorated over the decades. We have done our best to attend and refurbish some of them. Resources are hard to come by, and we attend to them in phases. To ease our woes, we need to acquire a tractor drawn grader for the consistency. I really hope we will manage to do that using the Constituency Development Fund,” said Cde Pemhenayi.
He said he has so far assisted in the construction of clinics and schools in Odzi, Chinota, Chikundu, Zonwe and Mukuni. He distributed eight grinding mills to different parts of the constituency, thanks to intra-district football competitions he is sponsoring.
10 more grinding mills, freezit and peanut butter making machines have been sourced and await distribution during sporting galas. Last Saturday, soccer teams converged at Border Gezi district where a football pitch he constructed was officially unveiled. He is building a classroom block at Claire Secondary School. A foundation has already been finished amid expectations to complete the super structure by this month end.
He contributed towards construction of another classroom block at Odzi Primary School and provided roofing material at St Francis Primary School (Chikundu) that had been affected by a hailstorm. He provided paint and paid labour costs for the refurbishment of classroom blocks at Chiwere Primary School.
“We have done our part in trying to improve the state of clinics and health centres in the constituency, but there is still more that needs to be done for us to achieve the 10km radius being advocated for by the Ministry of Health and Child Care,” he said.
That aside, the mandate of MPs is generally described as legislative, representational and oversight. To this end Cde Pemhenayi has acquitted himself well. He spoke for and aired the views of his constituents, represented and gave prominence to their aspirations and concerns. In the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines, Cde Pemhenayi advocated for fair compensation of families relocated from Chiadzwa to Arda Transau.
“I have personally advocated for fair treatment of people displaced from Chiadzwa and relocated to Arda Transau. Those in the committee know that these are the issues I have been very passionate about.
I have also been vocal on issues relating to the treatment of artisanal miners as I feel that they deserve to be recognised and be empowered so that they can contribute towards the development of the national economy,” he said.
Cde Pemhanayi gets an 8/10 rating.