The Sunday Mail
Harare City Council can be best described as ambitious. Very ambitious!
It wants to attain a world-class city by 2025, legalise all informal settlements, deal with the vendor menace, effectively collect garbage, rid the CBD of pirate taxis and evacuate third tenants within its accommodation facilities.
In improving the living standards of residents the city aims to complete $144 million water rehabilitation, clear blocked storm drains, erect public art in the CBD, illuminate the streets and effectively collect garbage.
But then something is missing.
Harare City Council seems not to have the will power to pursue its projects to their conclusion.
Residents are now tired of piece-meal plans that are set in motion and abandoned on initiation. Despite establishing a parking bay for commuter omnibuses, the public transport vehicles continue to cause a nightmare, while vendors are back on pavements.
These haphazardly framed projects have left the city in a “sea of confusion”.
In a bid to ease congestion along Chinhoyi Street, City of Harare finally set up a holding bay along Coventry Road for commuter omnibuses plying the south-western surburb city routes in August 2014 after a series of false starts. The holding bay has a capacity of 650 omnibuses at any given time.
Though constructing the holding bay was a noble idea, a new crop of pirate taxis affectionately known as “mushika-shika” has since taken over the roads.
Efforts to thwart the operations of these “go-faster” crews is also proving to be a mammoth task for the Council with the “Tom and Jerry” style having become the order of the day. Illegal pick-up points have also become a common sight in the city.
After failing to maintain the termini in recent years and having done little to stop the vandalism of existing facilities by vendors and touts, Harare City Council forged partnerships with local companies to upgrade the city’s bus termini at Copacabana and Market Square.
Urban planner analyst, Mr Percy Toriro, is of the view that council’s projects need to be well-thought out.
“Research is key for the Council’s projects to be successful and manageable,” said Mr Toriro.
“When you build an infrastructure and people don’t use it, then it definitely means something was wrong with it in the first place and it means that funds would have gone under the drain.”
On top of the transport system menace, illegal vendors have re-invaded the capital’s central business district, a few months after they were forcibly removed in what the Government claimed a move designed to clean up cities and towns.
The local authorities descended on the vendors in July last year with an iron fist as they confisticated their wares and forced them to vacate undesignated trading points.
But this has not deterred them from besieging almost every open space, pavement and island in the CBD where they were forcibly evicted by municipal security officials and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
In the same month that council embarked on a blitz to remove vendors from illegal trading sites, it engaged a private company, Omnipak, to build four commuter transport termini in the CBD at an estimated cost of $75 million. The deal is set go ahead once a memorandum of understanding between the City and Omnipak has been signed in line with the Transport Master Plan. It remains to be seen if the deal will come to fruition.
“Stakeholder involvement is important for buy-in because it won’t be of any use to come up with a project without knowing whether it’s going to be of any use or not to the people you are building it for,” added Mr Toriro.
Combined Harare Residents Association chairperson, Mr Simbarashe Moyo, feels that Harare City is not spared from resource constraints that have hit most companies in the country.
“Let’s not forget that for these projects to sail through there is a resource component attached to it. For instance, council owes its workers four months’ salary,” he said. “However, they need to come up with projects that are sustainable.”
The world over, the erection of public art has been common since time immemorial. And Harare City has not been left behind in the art craze.
It put up skeletal metal animals, purporting to represent the “Big Five” along Julius Nyerere Way.
Mr Moyo said achieving world-class city status remains a pipe dream without tangible projects.
“Achieving world-class city status by 2015 is just a slogan for now which must be substantiated with real work on the ground,” Mr Moyo said.
Tomfoolery at the Town House also came under spotlight with house demolitions in Glen Norah, Budiriro, Arlington Farm, among many others with the council maintaining that structures were built on wetlands and recreational facilities.
Harare City Council’s spokesperson, Mr Michal Chideme, said: “We face challenges of vandalism and lack of community appreciation of the beautification programme.”
Mr Moyo, however, challenged Council to prioritise its projects.
“For the City Council, it’s a question of prioritisation of issues – it becomes unsustainable to come up with new projects before the completion of others,” Mr Moyo added.