SYDNEY KAWADZA/LORRAINE NDEBELE
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is pushing for the immediate launch of Harare’s “new city” in Mt Hampden amid indications that the project is attracting a number of investors from countries such as Dubai.
The project to move Harare’s central business district was mooted in 2012 during the late President Robert Mugabe’s government leading to the construction of the gigantic new parliament building in the same area.
According to sources, the new city could be launched as soon as August this year as the government rushes to build more infrastructure around the new parliament building.
However, the project, stretching more than a reported 150 square km and straddling three provinces – Harare, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central – could affect thousands of Zimbabweans involved in various projects including agriculture, mining and other economic activities.
Government said the city would be modelled as a smart city, with emphasis on information and communications technology to increase operational efficiency and improve the quality of government services and citizen welfare.
It is also projected to decongest the capital Harare, whose population has exponentially risen from an estimated 616 000 in 1980 to approximately 2,2 million.
A recent visit to the site by the Independent revealed that the government had already started preparing for Mnangagwa to launch the project with a giant billboard showcasing the new project. Residents in the area are also speculating about the project which has caused uneasiness among those involved in agriculture, brick-moulding and mining.
“We have seen a lot of activities in recent months including the erection of that giant billboard showing the new city. It looks magnificent but we are also concerned about the development.
“What will happen to people from Mazowe Road going beyond the Lomagundi Highway (Harare-Chirundu) because I understand the city would go past that road,” one resident asked.
Another resident also added that the project had attracted interest from investors from around the area.
“We have talked to government workers who cleared the area for the billboard and they said the city is being designed in Dubai but as usual they did not say much about the project,” the resident said.
However, in an interview, Local Government and Public Works ministry Director of Spatial Planning and Development Honesty Magaya said there was still a lot to be done before the project sets off.
“There is a draft masterplan which is being presented at all levels of government and all presentations are running until early July.
“The boundaries may be adjusted but the presentations on the masterplan are handling that issue. The drafts have their boundaries but we cannot discuss these dimensions as we would be pre-emptying decisions for those discussing the masterplan,” Magaya said.
He added that the masterplan would be put on public display once presentations are complete with input from all government departments.
Magaya said the government through a consultant is also engaging communities that could be affected by the project.
The University of Zimbabwe is working with an inter-ministerial committee on drafting the masterplan.
“A real position on what is being done and on what form would be indicated through presentations being done and only one or two have already been done. There was also workshop input received from stakeholders.
“At the moment it is various government entities that will receive presentations and with the input made will shape what would be said about the new city,” Magaya said.
He also dispelled rumours that the masterplan was being drafted in Dubai while confirming that investors are being shown around developments in the new city.
“The investors are being taken around and other people may think something is starting but I am not privy to the decisions that the investors have made,” Magaya added.
The new city is expected to come up with new infrastructure that can easily attract more investors while attracting various developments including the construction of banking halls, residential areas, government buildings, universities, technological and shopping centres.