ZANU PF is responsible for scuttling development in rural areas!

 BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Forty-four years after Zimbabwe attained her independence, rural areas are still largely as backward as they were under colonial rule.

Nothing much to write about, in terms of development, has reached these areas since 1980.

The vast majority of rural homes remain cut off from electricity – which has kept these communities underdeveloped and even undeveloped.

Let us not forget that one of the secrets to phenomenal economic advancement in so-called ‘developed countries’ was the breakthrough in harnessing the power of electricity.

This marked what has come to be termed the ‘industrial revolution’.

This truth is still as relevant today as it was more than two hundred years ago.

Yet, in Zimbabwe, more than half the population appears stuck in the medieval ages.

A hut in rural Zimbabwe.

Not only that, but most of these areas still fetch their water from rivers and other unsafe sources – with the ‘lucky ones’ having had boreholes drilled by NGOs (non-governmental organization) and a few by the government.

I will not even go into backward educational institutions that have zero books, desks, and chairs – let alone modern learning facilities, such as science and IT laboratories.

Nonetheless, my discourse is not really about listing the already well-documented neglect and underdevelopment of rural Zimbabwe.

There is really no need to keep repeating the obvious. 

What I find most troubling and deplorable, though, is the cold-hearted abandonment of these areas by the ZANU PF regime.

How many actually know where the popular term ‘kumaraini’ originated – usually used in reference to one’s local community or residential area?

I am pretty sure many people already know that this term – which has become a Shona word – was derived from the English ‘line’.

However, where were its origins?

During the colonial era, the Rhodesia regime had magnificent plans for our country’s rural areas.

They wanted to develop them into something akin to urban areas.

As such, the authorities instructed that all rural villages and homesteads be built one after the other, in straight lines.

That is where the term ‘maraini’ was coined – from ‘lines’.

What was the idea behind this linear construction of villages?

This was to enable the easier connection of these rural homesteads to electricity – since the necessary pylons and cables had to be put up in straight lines.

It would nearly be impossible to connect homes to electricity infrastructure when they are haphazardly placed within a specific area.

The other reason for the villages to be lined up was for streets that would link every home to a road network.

Such a formation would also enable the erection of street lights – whose pylons and cabling also needed to be in straight lines.

I am sure these rural homesteads were to have street addresses as in urban areas.

Last but definitely not least, the lining up of these homes was the most suitable arrangement for the installation of piped water and sewer systems.

As can be clearly seen, the colonial regime has major plans for the development of rural areas.

Had these plans been fulfilled, today, our rural areas would have been no different from our towns and cities.

However, two things stopped this from happening.

The first was obviously the war of independence – which was primarily waged in rural areas.

To make it worse, the main method of fighting by the liberation movements, in particular ZANLA forces, was guerrilla warfare.

This was characterized by attacking and sabotaging infrastructure in parts of the country – which made any such envisioned rural development possible targets.

So, it would have been insane for these projects to go ahead at that time.

Nonetheless, the war eventually ended with the advent of independence in 1980.

This is where the second reason comes in.

As history has shown us, the ZANU PF regime was not interested at all in developing rural areas.

That is why, even 44 years later, these areas are still disturbingly backward – as already described.

Why has the ZANU PF administration not cared about our rural areas despite these having been the backbone of the liberation struggle?

Not only that, but ever since 1980, these regions have been the ruling party’s strongholds – albeit through the use of violence and intimidation.

The reason is quite simple.

Those who led the liberation movement were elitists – whose motive for waging the war was never about the ordinary subjugated and marginalized citizens.

The struggle was driven by those predominantly from urban areas – who were educated professionals.

As such, their grievances against the colonial establishment were far divorced from those of their rural compatriots.

What mattered to them more than anything else was access to political power, top jobs, and the pleasures and comforts they envied as they watched the white population.

That is why they made more noise about the racial segregation in residential suburbs, access to hotels and restaurants, and even walking along First Street in Harare.

These issues were alien to rural folk – as they were more interested in real economic and infrastructural development and access to fertile land.

Nevertheless, these were things that the ZANU PF administration was never really interested in.

That is why they never even implemented any meaningful land redistribution program after independence – only to be forced at the turn of the millennium after veterans of the liberation began invading white-owned farms.

At first, these people were even arrested and violently evicted by the ZANU PF regime as they were branded ‘squatters’.

Only when there was a danger of losing the June 2000 general elections to a nine-month-old MDC party did ZANU PF finally support the land invasions.

It has to be noted that there would have been absolutely no need for a violent and murderous land reform program had the ruling elite implemented genuine planned land redistribution from 1980.

The fact that those in power exhibited a reluctance and even resistance to sincere land reform – especially after the expiry of the ‘willing seller willing buyer’ Lancaster House Constitution clause in 1990 – proved that their priorities had nothing to do with disadvantaged rural folk.

In fact, even after the land reform program, the majority of rural folk are still on the semi-arid underdeveloped pieces of land from the colonial period.

Large fertile chunks of land went to those in power and those aligned to them.

No wonder former first lady, Grace Mugabe, is said to own 16 farms – whilst her daughter has 21!


Zimbabweans do not even know just how many farms President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa actually owns.

Maybe, as happened with the Mugabes, we will only know after he vacates office.

Be that as it may, the losers in all this mess are the ordinary citizens – most particularly rural folk.

They are the forgotten and abandoned people in Zimbabwe – whose only ‘use’ to the ruling elite is in forcing them to vote for ZANU PF.

Yet, they are regarded as second-class citizens in their own country – who still rely on handouts and crumbs from the table of those in power, packaged as food aid and free agricultural inputs.

The most painful thing in all this is that the colonial regime cared for them more than the supposed ‘liberators’!

Today, had the so-called ‘racist oppressors’ went ahead with their plans of ‘maraini’, our rural areas would have already been towns and cities!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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