Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
HIGH rentals, parking fees and the poor state of some buildings are forcing companies out of Harare’s central business district (CBD), with 70 percent of law firms now operating from medium and low-density suburbs near town. Most firms have turned residential properties into offices, a development that has seen businesses operating in the “home”.
Some firms legally converted houses into commercial properties in terms of the city by-laws, while a number of them are operating illegally without effecting change of land use.
Property owners are now demanding rent in US dollars, which most corporates cannot afford considering the prevailing economic challenges.
A survey by The Herald revealed that a floor comprising nine offices and a common room, now costs between US$2 500 and US$3 000 per month.
Converted to RTGS dollars on the parallel market, the company ends up paying RTGS$18 000 monthly.
Parking space for clients and staff is also a challenge in the CBD with City Parking charging $2 per hour.
President Mnangagwa recently urged council to take the lead in motivating building owners to renovate their properties.
He called on council to ensure the buildings are spruced up to meet the standards of a world class city.
Soaring costs have seen a number of other business entities moving out to spacious houses with free parking space for clients and staff.
Out of 349 registered law firms that operating in the capital, 236 are now based in areas like Avondale, Belgravia, Eastlea, Hillside, Gunhill, Mt Pleasant, Bluffhill, Belvedere, Greendale, Monavale, and Waterfalls.
Some firms have found it economic to buy houses in those areas before turning them into offices.
Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) executive secretary Mr Edward Mapara confirmed the development.
“Most law firms are opting out of the city centre because of high parking costs. They need parking for themselves and their clients. Parking space is now a challenge in the CBD and even when the bays are free, the fees charged are too high,” said Mr Mapara.
Mr Mapara said some lawyers were moving to quiet and cleaner areas, away from touts and rank marshals.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) chief executive officer Mr Christopher Mugaga confirmed that many companies had already moved out of the city centre.
Mr Mugaga said some structures in town were in a bad state, hence business entities were now opting for places out of the CBD for ambience.