The Sunday Mail
When the 112-year-old Matapi Flats were scarred by a fiery fireball on July 24 last year, two days later its traumatised residents got an unlikely visitor — President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who visited the high-density suburb to get an appreciation of the scale of the calamity that had befallen the area.
The visit — a detour to the President’s hectic electoral campaign — came four days before the July 30 harmonised elections and delivered comforting words for residents.
“It was prudent for me to come here to see for myself what befell you. We cannot have our people live in such a disgraceful and deplorable condition. After the election, you will see the abundant work I will do for you,” President Mnangagwa said at the time.
Cynics thought it was a bluff, but the promise is slowly coming to pass.
A Singaporean company FCG Private Limited, which is working closely with the Office of the President and Cabinet and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, is committing $1 million to spruce up the decrepit dwellings, which are home to multiple families.
City of Harare was only roped in as the landlord of the properties.
Walking the talk
FCG country manager director Mr Francis Mambo told The Sunday Mail last week that the President is simply “walking the talk”.
“He promised residents that he was going to do something about the flats . . . So after the election processes were done, he went on to say ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’; that mantra has attracted a lot of companies to come to Zimbabwe and among them is FCG,” he said.
When the company approached OPC, it was referred to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
“As I speak, we are working with the Ministry of Local Government, but under the Office of the President because this initiative was from the President himself,” he said.
The scope of the current restorative works will cover five blocks of flats.
FCG also plans to repair the roads in and around the flats, but council is reportedly uncooperative.
Mr Mambo said: “Among the issues we are working on from that MoU (memorandum of understanding) is we are doing five blocks and then we are also doing the roads in Mbare around the flats area and the market area, which is known as Mbare Musika.
“But here is the challenge we are facing: we are having challenges with the City of Harare.
‘‘We requested for their road engineers to come on board so that we can do the works together, its two months now but nothing has materialised.”
Overall, FCG intends to move to other areas outside Mbare.
The current programme, he said, is being done on humanitarian grounds and those willing to chip in were welcome.
Although the company is facing difficulties in completing the refurbishment, especially flats that are presently occupied, there are plans to complete the exercise expeditiously.