The Sunday Mail
As 2018 slowly wound to a close, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in keeping with his conviction to turn Zimbabwe into a Upper Middle-Income economy by 2030, held a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the New Parliament in Mount Hampden.
That ceremony signalled the migration of power from Harare to the New City.
While the idea of de congesting Harare by creating a New City sounds noble, authorities might need to ponder on a few potential glitches and explain how they intend dealing with them.
Authorities might need to explain how they will deal with the issue of the New City being further away from Robert Mugabe International Airport. Already, it is a hassle to navigate Harare’s Julius Nyerere Way, the main thoroughfare to the airport. It would be interesting to find out how the New City planners intend to navigate around Harare and to New City, hassle-free.
A ring road around Harare has always been touted, of which Harare Drive has always been set aside for that purpose but has never been fully utilised to that end. Besides a ring road, city planners would be urged to look at building link roads that pass through town but not necessarily interfering with Harare traffic. A peek at South African roads will be informative.
Added to that, as much as there is already a growing need and demand for a mass transport system, which need was clearly demonstrated by last week’s disturbances, the move to the New City will enhance that demand, so that Harare becomes less congested and more navigable.
Instructively, President Mnangagwa, on his current five-nation tour of Eurasia, struck a road and rail deal with Belarus. As planners of that deal get down to work, it should not be lost on them that there is need to link the New City with Harare, the international airport and as well as creating a congestion-free and easily accessible trafficking environment.
In South Africa, for instance, the GauTrain offers the seamless link between Pretoria, Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport. Pretoria and Sandton probably offer the model for which the New City will be formulated.
In a copy-and-paste style, there is a suburb named Sandton in Mount Hampden, on which the New City lies — whether it will live up to the real Sandton is yet another story for yet another day.
The GauTrain, however, has faced its fair share of challenges, which our planners could as well learn from.
Besides congestion, the other motivation for a New City would be to create a “crime-free” zone, a safer environment for conducting commerce and trade. Admittedly, even the most developed of countries are not without crime, so it will not be an easy task to create a “crime-free” New City.
Another interesting aspect is that the New City will combine three administrative authorities: Harare, Zvimba and Mazowe councils. Will central government come up with legislation to form a new local authority? Already Zvimba is selling some of its land, most of which has already gained premium status, to willing buyers.
Besides, some of the Zvimba land is being parcelled out as high-density residential stands, which might not tie-in with the vision of a New “affluent” City. That three administrative authorities are in charge of the land around the New City might pose problems for town planning, unless central government takes over the overall project.
Whilst the rush for land in and around the New City has resulted in the rise in land prices, it would be interesting to see how authorities will deal with the now-derelict bio-diesel digester located in the area. The building, which is now an eyesore and was built in the middle of the last decade to offset fuel shortages.
The project, then the brainchild of the Reserve Bank, intended to feed on jatropha, a project which was largely still-born. But the multi-million-dollar plant had been built, and today stands as a white elephant.
The plant has not had ownership, with the various ministries that should be responsible for it and its upkeep, refusing to acknowledge its existence.
So the planners of New City will have to decide whether to raze the multi-million-dollar complex to the ground or let it stand and be an eyesore.
The completion of the New Parliament will mark the shift of power from Harare — and its attendant nuisances like mushika-shika, congestion, pavement vending, street kids, malfunctioning street lights, the red light district to the New City, where a breath of fresh air awaits.