Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
THE Bulawayo mayoral mansion was first mooted by the local authority in 1991, with the council which was in office then initially identifying the stand where the residency would be built.
More than 30 years later, the Bulawayo City Council has decided to bring the dream into fruition by clarifying that the property will remain council property and will also be used as a guest house.
Commenting for the first time on the local authority’s move to construct the multi-million dollar property in the leafy suburb of Selbourne Park, Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni said the residence will be used for official functions like banquets and hosting of very important dignitaries.
He said the mayoral residencies were international best practices with the property remaining a council facility, adding to the local authority’s properties account.
“When we came into office in 2018 there are a lot of things which we found. When you talk of the mayoral mansion it has been in the pipeline since 1991, that is when the stand for the mayoral accommodation was identified.
It was the wisdom of the council which was in place then and our view now is that we operationalise that dream.
We cannot be a city council as big as Bulawayo without that institutional home, an official residence for the city’s Mayor,” said Clr Mguni.
He said it was unfair that some sections of society thought construction of the residency was just building a property for the incumbent which he would take as an exit package.
“It is actually something which is adding onto the balance sheet of council as it remains council property. It’s an official residence where important ceremonies for the city are held, it will also serve as a guest house for various important people who might be visiting the city.
In fact it is international trend that there is such a residence, it is up to the sitting mayor to choose whether to utilise it or not for residency purposes.
Its main purpose will be mainly for official ceremonies like banquets, hosting dignitaries. We believe this property is something which is important to the city of Bulawayo if it is trying to benchmark with progressive cities across the world and in the region,” said Clr Mguni.
Probed further on why the local authority had chosen now, when the city was going through financial challenges, to channel money and fast-track the construction of the property, Clr Mguni said it was an issue of rising above the challenges and pushing council projects that had been left hanging for some time.
“We have had challenges even before, challenges will be with us for quite some time but there is always a time when you have a certain leadership then taking up and saying they will implement this.
We deal with service delivery issues every day and we have to be up to the challenge to deal with those issues but for us to then say why this time at some stage someone has to take up the challenge and complete what fore bearers had committed to achieve,” he said.
In August the local authority resolved to divert funds meant for service delivery to the construction of a Z$25 million mayoral mansion.
They abandoned the original idea of renovating a house at the exclusive Hornung Golf Club in Burnside into the mayoral mansion noting that works required will be slightly less than what was required to construct a new mayoral mansion.
According to a council report, the renovation works at the Hornung Golf Club property were estimated to cost US$146 364, while construction of a new mansion was valued at Z$25 million. Further, the local authority resolved that they will be employing 30 contract workers so as to complete “the special project on time”, this further putting a burden on the already high council wage bill.