By Munyaradzi Hwengwere
It is fair to say the average Zimbabwean has never set foot in Zvishavane. Recently one leading CEO confided that he always thought the town was some village buried deep down in Zimbabwe’s rural areas.
Of course, this image was shattered in his visit to the town a few weeks back whereupon he discovered the place was bristling with activity. Not that there are high rise buildings like Harare, Bulawayo or even Gweru. In truth buildings still, look as they were in the 50s.
Yet everyone who has been to Zvishavane will attest to some energy that is not found anyway in the country. There is a certain vibe and life that speaks to some growing confidence and affluence. You see it in the cars driven and the clothes that most of the young people wear.
The statistics say it all. Zvishavane is a miniature compared to Harare with no more than 70 000 residents but its GDP runs into hundreds of millions of United States dollars. Residents come from all over the country in search of minerals found in the area. In it, we have the second-largest platinum mine in the country, Mimosa Mining Company. We also have Murowa Diamond Mine nearby.
On the sporting front, FC Platinum has made history by being the first soccer team outside Harare and Bulawayo to win the Premier League soccer championship for the third time in a row.
Zvishavane also has its own radio station, YAFM, which has become the voice of the Great Dyke. The station follows the champions wherever they go, be it in Zimbabwe or internationally.
Curiously when the decision was taken to set up the station in the mining town, many did not give the newcomer a chance to survive beyond one year. In September 2020 YAFM turns 5.
The current national president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa also hails from Zvishavane. His place of birth lies side by side to Palawani recreational facility, one of the most beautiful resort areas in the country.
Sadly, for the past few years, the facility had gone dormant owing to the collapse of Shabanie Mine, which established the resort.
YAFM has now taken over the place and vowed to turn Palawani into a world-class tourist attraction targeting miners and tourists from around the world.
Geographically Zvishavane is small but economically it could be likened to Switzerland or perhaps the new Kimberly. Many have said it is the real version of the fabled King Solomon’s Mines.
The town is at the tip of the 550km stretch of the Great Dyke where all the platinum mines are found and within which there are two cities, Kwekwe and Gweru, the municipality of Kadoma and two towns, Shurugwi and Zvishavane.
Shabanie mine should be credited for placing Zvishavane on the global map. It invested not only in sports, arts, and culture but spearheaded constructions of schools and hospitals.
Memories still linger fondly of Devera Ngwena Jazz Band and their hit song Solo na Mutsai. The band hailed from Shabanie Mine. The Paralympic gold medalist Elliot Mujaji is also a son of the town.
Today you can hardly find space to walk as thousands of students from Midlands State University who have set a campus there mix and mingle in the town.
For those who love the nightlife, Zvishavane is awake every single day of the week. In fact so good has been the fortunes in entertainment that some shrewd investors from Bulawayo have chosen to establish upmarket bars and restaurants in the town.
The temptation is to think of the new boom as sudden. Alas, there has been steady growth for the past 10 years. Then some property developers opened Izayi park. When I bought my stand a mere three years down the line it was the last available property.
Were it not for the dusty roads one would mistake the buildings in the suburb with Borrowdale. Land is the most scarce resource in Zvishavane. I am told some investors are now at an advanced stage to set a smart city some 15 km from Zvishavane to capture this vibe.
But assume minerals vanish, would Zvishavane survive? That question bothers me a lot and speaks to the need for local authorities to capture the current vibe and unlock its future developmental trajectory.
For now, it is no coincidence that the national soccer champions FC Platinum hail from Zvishavane. It is also no wonder YAFM set up base in Zvishavane. Long Live the town of dreams. Long Live Zvishavane.