BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
HARARE is currently in the middle of another phase of demolitions of illegal structures reminiscent of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina. This time, however, the demolitions are targeting illegal vending stalls which have proliferated over the years as people seek to earn an honest living. Driving around the city has also become a nightmare because of potholes and congestion. In light of these issues, the Zimbabwe Independent’s chief business writer Taurai Mangudhla (TM) on Friday last week had a chat with Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Oliver Chidhawu to discuss his plans to ensure the affairs of the metropole are better administered. The interview also covered his office’s plans to improve service delivery and addressing the housing challenges. Below are the excerpts:
TM: Honourable Minister, you are a renowned businessman, what is your assessment of opportunities for investors in Harare?
OC: In Zimbabwe, one can invest basically in anything and be able to make money; Harare is no exception. It depends on your skills. Real estate is one of the areas. If you invest in real estate you can’t go wrong; you can shield yourself against inflation, you can also be able to focus and ensure that your earnings are protected.
TM: There is a huge housing backlog in the country which is growing beyond 1,5 million units. What is your office doing to improve the situation in the capital given that it is the most affected?
OC: We are discussing with the Ministry of Housing and other key departments to make land available. We have investors who are approaching to develop towns. So that approach is there and so it is the land that we are trying to make available to facilitate investments.
TM: We have seen houses being demolished in Harare but authorities watch while these settlements mushroom. This just dents confidence. What are you doing to avoid this?
OC: That’s not the case. In urban areas you don’t build a house that then gets demolished, no no no. The houses that are being demolished are squatting houses. People build wherever they want and you can’t even do that in rural areas. Those who get their houses knocked down would have built without permission, carelessly and would have breached the law.
TM: Zimbabwe has not had significant infrastructure investments over the past two or so decades and Harare is no exception. The water and sewage systems are overwhelmed and so is the road network. What is your office doing to address these problems, particularly looking at roads?
OC: Yes we have plans, what we need is investment to make sure we have bypasses on all the congested areas. We are quite aware of them. Don’t forget that we have not had significant investment in the past 30 or so years and when that investment is put in and allocated accordingly, part of the result is that it will certainly decongest the roads.
TM: Do you have any indication of how much is required for roads?
OC: What I can say is we are considering Mbudzi, that there be a bypass where the roundabout is. Actually there is an interchange at Mbudzi that has already been programmed. There will also be an interchange at Enterprise and another one on the Chitungwiza road. Once the bypass on Chitungwiza road is done, it will decongest the area. There will be another one on the Warren Park roundabout; again there is going to be a bypass. Finally there will be another interchange at Kuwadzana roundabout.
When that is done then traffic doesn’t need to stop, it will just pass through without any interference.
TM: You are like half way through your current term in office, what do you consider to have been your major achievements so far?
OC: Order. There is now order and we have managed to deliver that and we are still working on it to get the best result. There was chaos everywhere even in the CBD, people were selling tomatoes and roasting corn along First Street and we have stopped that. There is order now.
TM: What projects are you working on ahead of 2023, what can the city expect from you?
OC: Well, for Harare it’s just cleanliness and that should be able to attract investment. When I came in, it was chaotic and there was litter all over. The city has changed for the better now.
TM: Can you speak specifically on your plans to fix accommodation problems in Harare?
OC: There are plans that are being approved and it will certainly give our city a new modern look. These are a result of orderliness because people invest only where they see a future. They don’t invest where they think there is no money or market.
That’s what we are trying to do; that is exactly what we are trying to provide as a government. Investments are made by individuals; the government does not make investment, that’s not its major function or role. Its role is to create the environment. Although right now we have people looking out to the government for investment, it’s fine if the government can afford it but that’s not what governments are set for. Governments are set for protection, law and order and ensuring that people are happy.
TM: What is the future like for business in Harare?
OC: Harare can do anything because of the high literacy rate; anything you can actually do, which is like your IT, will be able to succeed because people are able to use it. As a city, Harare is intellectually driven in terms of education among the population so any project will thrive. The people in the city are educated. That means the ability to have business and labour is available.
TM: There has been an argument that high rise buildings are the future for our city and this will solve accommodation problems without wasting land. What is your comment?
OC: We should have done that and started with areas like Mbare; we flatten out what is there and build quality high rise buildings with all the services in place. People will then start appreciating the projects and see the value. That’s how you decongest.
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