Sawanga to change resort

There is a tourism boom in the resort town of Victoria Falls, which has sparked a number of construction activities. Notably, the Sawanga Mall, a development by Zimre Properties, has taken off the ground. Recently, our Features Editor Garikai Mazara was in Victoria Falls and asked the following to Zimre Properties’ Nyasha Zhou, the finance and administration manager:

Q: What is the inspiration behind the naming of the mall and what does it mean? Which language is this?

A: The shopping mall is named after Chief Sawanga, one of the three sons of Rozvi Changamire, who changed his name from Dendelenge to Sawanga and finally Whange after deserting his father’s kingdom, Great Zimbabwe, with his loyal subjects to establish a kingdom of his own. Sawanga and his followers, a patri-lineal people of the Soko (monkey) totem were later known as the baNambya.

The shopping mall design opens out its anchor arms as embracing features that imitate the welcoming nature of this inspirational chief who ruled from 1737–1780. Sawanga is said to have created a well-organised economic and social structure among the Nambya people which brought about peace, trade and stability in the region. Thus the mall seeks to perpetuate the values of commerce and trade into modern day society.

There are three dominant ruins that characterise the heritage of the Nambya people of Hwange district in Zimbabwe: Matowa, Bambusi and Shangano. The latter was a stonewalled enclosure and they named this place Shangano, meaning “to meet”. The Shangano Ruins are located on top of a strategic hill. Its walls are built of a vast quantity of small sandstone rocks laid on top of each other to a height of about four to five feet. Shangano became the first capital city of the Nambya people. The place then became known as Sawanga from which name the Whange chieftainship was derived. Shangano is cornerstone of the valuable cultural heritage of the Nambya people, it is the same manner that the Sawanga Shopping Mall is to be regarded. The mall is also customised to incorporate water features that seek to imitate one of the seven wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls.

Q: What has been the motivation in investing in Victoria Falls?

A: Victoria Falls as an investment destination for the mall was informed by several factors, amongst them was the fact that this is the first of its type in Victoria Falls and there is always wisdom in taking first-mover advantages. With the anticipated boom in tourist arrivals as Zimbabwe opens for business, we expect increased demand for facilities such as these. Added to that was the attraction of the City as an export processing zone in the financial cluster, thus we see Victoria Falls as a future financial services capital of Zimbabwe and the region. The fact that Victoria Falls was accorded city status was another attraction. The tourist destination and investment in infrastructure such as the new airport which has seen new and increased flights and tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls was a key consideration. We felt the need to complement Government efforts in reviving and growing the tourism industry, hence the need to create a world-class shopping experience commensurate with expected international standards, at the same time without losing the local identity.

Victoria Falls is at a confluence and allows access to Angola, the DRC, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. This is expected to be even more enlarged with the completion of the Kazungula Bridge, thus as a city, Victoria Falls will offer a strategic springboard into these various markets. The other reasons were internal, particularly the need to balance the portfolio by moving out of CBD office space in which we are highly concentrated and moving into other real estate asset classes, particularly pure retail such as Sawanga Mall.

Q: When did construction of the mall begin?

A: Construction started at the beginning of February following the ground-breaking ceremony officiated by the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Honourable Priscah Mupfumira on February 2. Construction works commenced with excavation of top soils and replacing that with gravel, which is more competent for such works.

Q: What is the projected cost of the project?

A: The project is estimated to cost US$13 million.

Q: When do you envisage the mall to be completed?

A: Target completion date is December 2018. Construction progress is on target to achieve this. This is, however, dependent upon the availability of materials, some of which are being imported.

Applications have been made with our bankers for foreign currency allocation by the Central Bank to purchase particularly steel, which is not manufactured locally.

Q: What is going to be the mix of business at the mall? That is, what kind of shops will make up the mall?

A: About 23 shops will be housed in the mall and these include a major retail chain Pick ‘n’ Pay as the anchor tenant, banks, a food court and curio shops, among others. There is also space for a fuel service station to provide more convenience to the public.

Q: Further to that, do you have any confirmed lessees to the mall? If so, who are they?

A: There are a number of non-disclosure agreements and memoranda of understanding entered into with various prospective tenants, including the anchor tenant who will occupy the single largest portion of the mall.

Q: How many floors will the mall have?

A: The mall is largely a single-storey building providing shopping facilities and parking, so all the shopping will be on the ground floor. However, we have catered for the needs of the anchor tenant by providing another floor on this area.

Q: On how many square metres is the mall sitting on?

A: The mall is approximately 5 000 square metres of lettable space.

Q: Any additional information?

A: In so far as jobs and job creation, currently there are about 125 people employed on site and we expect this to increase to approximately 400 people as the project peaks. In terms of creating employment, we expect the mall to generate at least 450-plus jobs, both directly and indirectly post-construction.

The mall is themed from Chief Sawanga (Chief Hwange) and it aims to create a new modern focal point for Victoria Falls as a city as well as a melting pot for locals, regional and international visitors to the city and the country at large. The aim of the development is to offer world-class amenities and conveniences in a local setting for cultural heritage to be maintained, hence the theme Sawanga. In itself the mall should be a tourist destination at the same time being consistent with all major tourist destinations. There should be world-class shopping facilities for both international visitors and locals.

This we believe will ensure tourists coming to see the mighty Victoria Falls also spend as much, if not every dollar they would have brought, thus increasing the country’s foreign currency earnings. For the locals, we believe the mall will create a repose for families on holiday, particularly parents with children and become a great place for entertainment.

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