George Maponga-Masvingo Bureau
By virtue of its vantage location along the busy Harare-Beitbridge highway, at the same time bisected by a railway line linking southern Zimbabwe to the shores of Mozambique via Sango Border Post, Rutenga Growth Point in Mwenezi was always poised to undergo rapid metamorphosis at some point in time.
Tucked within savannah woodlands predominated by the resilient mopane trees on the south-western edges of Masvingo province, Rutenga’s destiny appeared already written in the stars at the foundation of the urban settlement in the pre-independence era.
At its founding, Rutenga served as a service centre for hordes of commercial livestock farmers scattered across the central and eastern rural Mwenezi hinterland.
Those domiciled in Mwenezi’s western fringes found Rutenga beyond arm’s length and coalesced around another sprouting settlement, which grew rapidly to be known as Neshuro Growth today.
Neshuro today serves the Dinhe and Maranda communities that stretch to the Mwenezi border with neighbouring Mberengwa.
However, it was Rutenga’s strategic location that was to become it’s trump card for meteoric growth and expansion, a scenario that was accentuated by the opening of cane plantations at Mwenezana estates in the mid-1980s.
Mwenezana just like Rutenga, is nourished by Manyuchi Dam water and this precious commodity is now stoking the fires fueling the accelerated growth of this largely rural outpost.
Before it’s designation as a dry port by Government following the advent of the New Dispensation, Rutenga was an anonymous growth point struggling to stake a claim in an era where growth points were losing their lustre owing to divestment and economic challenges that bedevilled the country under the previous order.
Making Rutenga a dry port has now breathes oxygen that is powering the lungs of development in this sprawling urban settlement. Today, Rutenga is a hive of activity with new buildings and structures taking shape in the wake on increased influx of investment.
Besides decongesting Beitbridge Border Post, which is arguably the country’s busiest port of entry, the opening of a dry port at Rutenga will no doubt improve the easy of doing business that will have a positive domino effect on the growth of the national economy.
The poster project that headlines Rutenga’s new-found metamorphosis is the amarula fruit processing and value-addition plant that will be inaugurated before year-end that will produce edible oils, fruit juice and stockfeed both for local consumption and for export.
According to Mwenezi Rural District Council chief executive, Mr Albert Chivanga, the plant is one of several new investments that are changing the face of Rutenga.
The National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe, which is an autonomous research agency under the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Technology Development, is building the amarula plant.
It’s one of the flagship government projects that undergird quick win economic growth as espoused under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).
“We are happy that our new-found status as a dry port has led to a flurry of investment at Rutenga with processing industries also opening shop at the growth point which is poised to be a town in a short space of time,” he said.
“Besides the amarula plant being built by the NBAZ, we also have an Indian company that has applied and got land from us to build a second such plant at Rutenga though timelines are not yet clear. All these are positive signs that the future is bright and Rutenga is on the cusp of massive transformation.”
Mr Chivanga noted that with other new investments such as abattoirs and big supermarkets opening at Rutenga, it will not be long before his local authority attains town status.
Mwenezi Rural District Council had already tabled an application to have Rutenga accorded town status on the back of its designation as a dry port. Government is yet to respond, but prospects are bright.
“The amarula factory has already opened many opportunities for locals who boost incomes through gathering the marula fruit for sale to both the Indian firm and the NBAZ. The future looks bright because the companies will employ locals directly when the processing and packaging starts ostensibly next year.”
Mr Chivanga revealed that NBAZ intends to apply for 100 00 hectares around Rutenga to grow marula trees under irrigation using water from Manyuchi Dam.
“The anticipated growth in population at Rutenga and new investments have already compelled us to embark on a water upgrade project to increase water supplies by expanding water infrastructure from Manyuchi Dam to the growth. We are working with ZINWA on the project,” he said.
The planned marula fruit plantation will make Mwenezi a hub of processing industries with other investments already in the pipeline especially in the area of beef processing and fruit juice manufacture.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, according to Mr Chivanga, has also already successfully applied for 20ha to establish a warehouse for the planned dry port.
All these positive developments were harbingers of brighter days ahead for the sprawling growth point whose expansion is taking place in leaps and bounds.
A dry port at Rutenga has already excited Lowveld sugarcane farmers who are by virtue of proximity to the growth point, have been mulling set up shop there to export various by-products from sugar cane such as molasses.
Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira noted that the designation of Rutenga as a dry port would stimulate economic growth in Masvingo and the nation at large.
Minister Chadzamira paid tribute to the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa for making Rutenga a dry port saying the designation was behind heightened interest in the growth point by investors.
He said the ongoing upgrading of the Sango-Rutenga-Zvishavane road was a boom for trade.
“Work is ongoing on the Zvishavane-Rutenga-Sango upgrade which means a tarred road will complement the existing railway line that links Rutenga and Maputo in Mozambique via Sango. This is a massive boon for trade as the existing gateway will be expanded connecting the entire south western region of the country with a shorter route to Maputo port.”
Traders will be able to quickly move their goods via Rutenga dry port, making the growth point a key part of the national trade puzzle.
Going into the future the planned expansion of Mwenezana estates, coupled with building of the Runde-Tende Dam that will make the Lowveld Zimbabwe’s irrigation hub, Rutenga can only further undergo exponential growth with the dry port being the nucleus powering that expansion as Zimbabwe angles for Visons 2030.