Exactly 18 years ago, Charles Sibanda was celebrating the birth of his second born child.
At the time, a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Lupane’s Elitsheni government complex in Matabeleland North was held.
Lupane was declared a provincial capital for Matabeleland North, and was poised to be a major town attracting investment.
The construction of the complex commenced alongside that of the Lupane District Hospital and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) provincial headquarters.
“But today, 18 years later, all the structures remain incomplete,” Sibanda said.
Lupane was given a town status in 1999. Prior to that, Bulawayo was the provincial capital for Matabeleland North.
The colossal project was supposed to have been completed long ago to change the face of the district.
Lupane remains, at best, a growth point, with no noticeable economic and physical developments befitting a provincial capital.
Every election period, the provincial capital is always used as a campaign gimmick to woo voters.
In November 2019, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo said the complex was ready for use.
Last year, Moyo said ‘the complex will be completed by year end.’
It has been a tale of missed deadlines since 2004.
Former Lupane senator Dalumuzi Khumalo said it was a mystery why there is failure to complete construction of the complex.
“Lupane residents feel the government is deliberately and conveniently delaying their completion for reasons known to the government,” Khumalo said.
“Chief among the reasons for their failure to complete these projects is to politicise these projects.
“I say so because these projects are neglected between election periods only to begin working on them towards election times.
“Surely where in the world has a small project like the Government Complex taken 18 years to complete?” he asks.
Lupane Youth for Development Trust programmes coordinator Tawanda Mazango shared similar sentiments.
“Otherwise, the non-use of the complex is not about it not being ready but lack of political will to make it functional,” Mazango said.
“It only needs a strong government directive like they did with the Lupane passport office during the 100 days action points soon after the birth of the Second Republic.
The Elitsheni Government complex in Lupane is among a litany of other unfinished projects in Matabeleland North, which commenced a decade or more ago.
These projects include the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Lupane Methane Coal Bed Gas project and of recent the Hwange Thermal Power Station Expansion Project. All these projects have been the ruling party flagships programmes in their elections manifesto.
Matabeleland North provincial development coordinator Sithandiwe Ncube was not picking calls when The Citizen Bulletin tried to reach her for a comment.
As the structure remains closed, Lupane villagers are denied devolution benefits as some services remain centralised in Bulawayo, or the capital, Harare.
“When completed, the central government would have devolved services and administrative power to Matabeleland North,” said Khumbulani Maphosa, the coordinator of the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights.
For now, Lupane residents have to continue traveling to Bulawayo and Harare to access basic government services.
“It is, therefore, paramount for the government to channel funds towards the completion of that project.
“The funds are there, but our problem is that we don’t put funds in the right place and at the right time,” Maphosa added
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.