By Sijabuliso Ndlovu
ÂBeing a Bureau Chief has afforded me the chance to see a lot of places around the Matebeleland North Province. If I have to be honest, I would not have bothered visiting some of these places on my own and had it not been the nature of my job that requires me to do so.
Binga is certainly one of the places I would not have bothered visiting. When I grew up, I never heard anyone speak positively about Binga except that itâ€™s a well known Malaria Zone and heavily under developed district. Why would I want to visit an under developed place? I could never imagine myself going there, lest I die of Malaria right? Wrong.
I arrived in Matebeleland North from Harare in September 2009, and during the third week of that month, I had to go and cover Kujatana Kubotu Peace Half Marathon there. We travelled late so by the time we arrived it was around 8 in the evening. Naturally there was nothing I could have seen at that time of the day but when I woke up in the morning, I got the shock of my life. The breath taking view of the vast waters of Lake Kariba was all I could see stretching miles and miles to meet the horizon in the east.
There was the Crocodile Farm by the lake. The fish, the hot springs and they had boats too. Lovely Lodges I had never heard of. Fresh air blew my face and it was so refreshing. I had never felt anything like this before.
Waoh!So this is Binga? And Guess what? I did not die of malaria and here I am still writing news stories and articles about this lovely place I fell in love with. And this is the rural home of the late Cde Sikajaya Andrew Muntanga, the first Chairperson for Binga Rural District Council, the first Member of Parliament for this Constituency and the first man ever to be declared a National Hero from Tonga people.
Realising the need for development in the district I had the privilege to chat with the director of Binga Development Association, one of the late Cde Muntanga`s initiatives meant to bring about development in this part of the country. I also gathered that in
September 1981, he personally spoke to the President Robert Mugabe in Binga and requested for a programme that would see new projects being started in Binga.
These discussions led to the construction of Binga High School, the development of roads and health centres around the district.
Many other primary and secondary schools have been constructed through his efforts as he encouraged the Tonga people to go to school.
Imagine your father going to your rural home for weekend. Come Sunday afternoon there he drives into the yard with three children not known to the family. The next thing you are told they will sleep in your bedroom and you will share the blankets with them. Before you know it they are going to school and enjoying the same comfort that you enjoy. You may wonder why he is bringing them. Besides, you think the money being spent on them could have been used to take you to your dream school.
Perhaps this is what his children felt, but Cde Muntanga did it anyway. Many Tonga children not related to him found themselves living under one roof with him, sharing the same comfort he provided to his children. This is just one of the extremes he went just to get Tonga children to access education.
What manner of love is this?? What more would you need to do to empower your community? How many with 4 or 5 figure salaries would do the same today?
Many Tonga people found jobs in Bulawayo married, settled and died there.
Then there would be no money to take the body to Binga for burial and they would be buried in Bulawayo. This was disturbing and something had to be done. Cde Muntanga then formed Burial Societies for the Tonga people so that whenever death strikes, there would be enough money to transport the body to their rural home for Burial.
Like many other communities that are custodians of natural resources, the Tonga people had to be given access to the Zambezi River. This was important considering that it is the Tonga people who were forced to relocate to other places to make way for the construction of Kariba Dam.
Today the Tonga fully appreciate they can access the river and some have licences for Kapenta Fishing and Gill Netting. Who facilitated all this? It was Cde Muntanga.
Like many other districts in Matebeleland North, Binga is home to one of the countryâ€™s National Parks, Chizarira with an abundance of wildlife. Being familiar to the cases of human-wildlife conflict, he spearheaded the introduction of Campfire in the district.
As one would expect, the Tonga have blood relatives across the river on the Zambian side. But would anyone from this part of the country have a passport to cross to the other side? It could only be handful. It was Cde Muntanga while he was Member of Parliament, who with his Zambian counterpart Mr. Syacheye Madyenkuku facilitated the use of passes so that people on both side of the river could move freely without having to use passports.
The history of the immigration and customs offices in the two border posts, Livingstone and Victoria Falls can not be complete without Cde Muntanga.
His contribution to the success of the liberation struggle has been the talk in the past few days and no one can doubt it. He was patriotic son of the soil. He was a fighter, a true leader and a true revolutionary. No wonder they call him the Lion of Binga. Being a friend to some he was also a brother, a father, a colleague and above all he was A Man Of The People.
May His Soul rest in peace.