The Sunday News
Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
Service delivery to citizens is the core priority to governments and local authorities across the globe.
As a result, many local authorities either in an urban or rural set up have started entering twinning arrangements with those from different countries.
It is believed that this helps authorities to peer review and implement harmonised systems to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Such an initiative is seen as one that can bring together Zimbabwe and South Africa’s port towns of Beitbridge and Musina respectively.
These two replicate one city divided by a river (the Limpopo) with the former sitting in the north and the latter on the south.
The two towns are set up in different countries as defined by the colonial boundaries.
However, communities in these towns share the same service delivery issues, including handling the daily transient population of 15 000.
In the last few years, the development patterns in the two twin towns have become contrastingly stark, if one is to look into the globalisation dream of having the two as one single city when it comes to urban renewal and resilience.
Although Beitbridge town has been developing rapidly in terms of infrastructure and property development, it still has notable problems when it comes to people-centred service delivery.
Be that as it may be, Musina also has its own fair share of problems but has been doing fairly well in addressing them.
This scenario has brought in a general consensus among experts and all the well-meaning citizens of the world that the two towns must work together to ensure that they grow on the same wavelength.
Essentially these (towns) can be viewed as one urban development centre separated by a river, a bridge and a border post with similar challenges on service delivery, infrastructure, and pollution.
Beitbridge town is Zimbabwe government’s cash cow, while Musina plays a critical role in terms of regional and international trade for South Africa.
Both towns are moving towards modernisation into medium cities. Dusty streets and roads are a common feature in Beitbridge while Musina has relatively moved to address such areas.
On the other hand, Beitbridge has a better water and sanitation management system compared to Musina, where water is elusive to many residents. Furthermore, the modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post has brought many positives in terms of roads, housing and service delivery.
It is understood that the population growth in Beitbridge is driven by its proximity to South Africa and location at one of the busiest inland ports in Sadc.
A closer look at the two places of economic activities shows that they share the same burden when it comes to handling the transit population.
The towns have an estimated population of more than 100 000 which is increasing by 10 000 annually due to several push and pull factors.
Recently, authorities at the Beitbridge Municipality and Musina Municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the two local authorities having a twinning arrangement.
Beitbridge town clerk, Mr Loud Ramakgapola said the move will enhance co-operation between the two councils.
He said they share a number of cross-cutting challenges that come with their geographical location as one of Africa’s biggest trade corridors.
“The Memorandum of Understanding covers a number of areas we would need to co-operate and share ideas on. You will note; we are only separated by the Limpopo River, but we share common challenges. So, we have agreed on a number of issues and the MoU covers exchange programmes, including the development of Small to Medium Enterprises and sharing calendars of events.
“Some of the major events include trade fairs, Marula Festival, Musina Annual Show, Beitbridge mayor’s anti-litter marathon, the two countries marathon, annual budget speeches”.
Mr Ramakgapola said they had also agreed to create joint women and youth entrepreneurs’ networks.
They will also be co-operating on the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which fall under the jurisdiction of both councils.
He said other areas under consideration were the strengthening of cultural and educational programmes.
Musina Mayor, Councillor Godfrey Mawela said they were focusing on economic and infrastructure development.
“We have a lot of issues in common including the establishment of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in our areas and we also share a border. So our major focus is on moving together in terms of economic development. From what we have seen, we appreciated that Beitbridge has enough water to give to the residents and the setup is impressive. This is something Musina will take a leaf from. We have serious water challenges and we are not in control of such facilities”.
Clr Mawela said they had learnt a lot on water service delivery. He said the two councils had also agreed to jointly establish a cultural village at Dulivhadzimu Gorge, which is a critical historical feature for the Beitbridge community.
The mayor said most people in the two towns were Venda speakers who share the same cultural rites.
“We are the same people who are only divided by a river and hence we must work together on preserving culture and culture exchange programmes which may also push tourism growth.
“At the same time, we share a common problem on the influx of migrants in both towns, which is a burden on its own and this must not make us fight. So, through this twinning agreement we will be able to find solutions and bring people together,” he said.
He said the two councils will also work together in showing the world the importance of having neighbours and sharing a border and how that can push economic development.
Beitbridge resident, Miss Patience Moyo said the towns’ management could learn a lot from work exchange programmes and that it was important for them to include the business community in the twinning fold.
Beitbridge Mayor, councillor Munyaradzi Chitsunge said an economic twinning arrangement was a key enabler to addressing service delivery challenges.
“Due to the high transit population movement, the local authorities will collaborate to manage public health, epidemics, pandemics and endemics.”
He said technical teams from the two councils have started working on the necessary plans to fully implement the terms of the MoU.
“We need a setup where we grow together in terms of economic, social and cultural development. As a local authority, we envisage a set up where some South African companies invest and take up space in our special economic zone facilities.
“Among some key issues under consideration is that we export water to them but the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) will have to come in with the necessary legal and modalities framework,” said Clr Chitsunge.
He said whatever happens in either town in terms of public health, crime and economic activities has an impact on both communities hence the need to co-operate in resolving some of the cross-cutting issues.
A Zambian truck driver, Mr John Mwale said the idea of twinning was long overdue since the two towns were one village separated by a river.
Beitbridge businessman, Mr Ndaba Ngoma said; “This is an excellent idea that will benefit residents of the two towns as we share resources, cultures, language and this can minimise conflicts. In fact, we are one and these boundaries are manmade”.
Beitbridge’s Chief Stauze (David Mbedzi) said the Venda people should always stick together even if they are separated by a colonial border.
“As traditional leaders, we are excited with this new twinning arrangement that will benefit the Venda people from both countries. A shared culture brings together people and we commend the two councils for this initiative. Service delivery and other challenges may be addressed with communities learning from each other.”
Miss Praise Matizorofa, a cross-border trader, said it is important for Beitbridge and Musina towns to unite and implement similar economic development policies.
She said their input through the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative would help address some trade barriers not only for the two countries but for the rest of Sadc.
Since the turn of the millennium, Musina has managed to lure investment to the town with the construction of many key buildings and shopping malls.
On the other side of the river, Beitbridge has undergone a massive infrastructure development revolution through the US$300 million border modernisation.
In addition, the town has been growing in terms of road network, water and sewer infrastructure and housing development in the last three years.
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