Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
In colonial Rhodesia, the city was the colonist, the oppressor, the master, the white man’s strong forte from which he debarred the African whom he reduced to a wayfarer who could only stay at the settler’s largesse as a trader of sweat, blood and toil.
The black man’s abode was an infertile and measly space somewhere in the Tribal Trust Lands of lack where neither school, hospital, rains, clinic nor life could be found without having to eke it out.
Without a voice in the running of his affairs, either by himself or through representation, the African’s idea of councils, and how they should be run was a reflection on the white man’s face as he routinely handed him the pass that spelt out his place in a colonial setup where even the consumption of liquor was regulated according to race. The advent of Independence in 1980, therefore, gave the African more than a nation; it gave him humanity through recognition of his right to being, unrestricted by race, ethnicity and creed.
Since Independence in 1980, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has committed to the promotion of local governance tenets that recognise the rights of citizens to determine the way they are governed with the aim to change outcomes for the common good.
In view of that goal, the ministry administers 32 Acts of Parliament; the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) and Local Government Board; and has the public transport utility, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), under its ambit. It also approves and issues licences and permits as provided for by Acts of Parliament, namely; Liquor Act (Chapter 14:12), Development Permits (Section 29) Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12), Sub-division Permits (Section 40) Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12), Change of Reservation Permits (Section 49) Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12), Local and Master Plans Approval (Section 16) Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12), and Sub- approval of division of State land (Section 43) Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12).
Zimbabwe has 32 urban councils and 60 Rural District Councils (RDCs) which fall under the ministry.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is headed by Honourable July Moyo who is deputised by Honourable Marian Chombo with Mr Zvinechimwe Ruvinga Churu as the Permanent Secretary.
Inspired by the vision to attain sound local governance and quality-built environment by 2030, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works’ obligation to citizens is to promote comprehensive local governance, undertake and coordinate rural and urban development to enhance the socio economic development of Zimbabwe.
Among others, the ministry’s purposes are to; formulate, regulate and monitor policies that promote sound local governance, facilitate devolution; formulate, review and implement spatial planning and State land management policies; manage and coordinate orderly spatial development; coordinate disaster mitigation and preparedness planning to promote efficient response and resilience to disasters; and initiate, promote and implement Urban and Rural development projects and programmes.
The ministry also endeavours to coordinate Central and Local government programmes and expansion initiatives; promote and facilitate an efficient urban public transport management system; facilitate effective operations and traditional leaders; coordinate, administer and manage all disasters; manage and account for the National Civil Protection Fund.
To achieve its mandate, the ministry aims to formulate and monitor implementation of sound national housing amenities policies at the household, business centre and growth point levels; develop and implement strategies that ensure rural and urban development in consultation with relevant ministries and other stakeholders; manage and maintain Government Real Estate; provide office accommodation to Government; and provide professional and technical advice to smaller local authorities on building construction and engineering services.
A glimpse into the colonial planner’s office
In the colonial planner’s mind the African was a second class citizen with neither rights, culture nor history. Therefore, the local governance structures reflected that bias as they were premised on a racially-based system of “othering”. The African as the other had to live in areas set aside for him where beerhalls outnumbered clinics and schools, and rural district councils were impoverished abodes.
The idea of Tribal Trusts Lands (Reserves), Native Lands, or African Councils and later District Councils was to differentiate local governance initiatives basing on race with infrastructural development assuming colonial garb.
Urban areas were for colonists and blacks could only temporarily visit as labourers, and once sapped of energy they had to retreat to their rural homes where their families were confined. The Native Passes Act of 1937 forced Africans to possess passes bearing their names and those of their employers to be allowed to stay in urban areas. Even when hostels and townships were constructed for them, the idea was only to perpetuate colonial capital. Urban regulations were skewed in favour of whites.
Without voting rights, Africans had no voice over the way councils were run. Traditional leaders were also imposed on them depending on how they toed the colonial line.
Mapura (2011) cited in Jonga (2014:76), sums it up when he affirms: “Ordinarily, the existence of Africans in urban areas was prohibited under colonial legislation unless they were providing cheap labour in mines and factories.”
Building the nation brick by brick
The Government of Zimbabwe’s immediate task at Independence in 1980 with regards to colonial injustices that created two nations in one country since 1890 — the European nation and the African nation (Chigwedere, 2001) was to enact people-oriented legislation.
In 1980, the Urban Councils Act of 1973 was repealed and replaced by the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 214). The Act was repealed in 1995 and 1996, and the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) was enacted, which provides for the determination and establishment of councils, qualification for election into council and its management committees. The Act also provides for the appointment of officials, duties, functions, rights and obligations of local authorities as well as financial matters.
As Aristotle affirms “even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered.” Therefore, alive to the philosophy that for the good of justice, laws should be constantly visited to determine if they remain in tandem with the dictates of the communities they are meant for, the Government of Zimbabwe amended the Urban Councils Act in 1997, which was substituted by the Local Government Laws of 2008.
By constantly keeping an eye on prevailing trends and effectively responding through requisite policy frameworks, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works was able to provide housing, schools and health facilities to citizens of Zimbabwe for four decades now.
Across the country’s 10 provinces the landscape has been adorned by projects meant to enhance economic and human development. In Harare the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is behind construction projects at NatPharm where a warehouse was built, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital); Kuwadzana 7 High School; Tomlison Flats; David Livingstone Primary School (classroom block); Chikurubi (ECD block); and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (EPI dry store). One of the major projects that the ministry is involved in, is the construction of the New Parliament Building in Mount Hampden.
In Masvingo the ministry constructed Gutu Rural Hospital and Gutu Magistrates’ Court.
Through its disaster response initiatives, the ministry came up with the Cyclone Idai Housing Project to provide accommodation to victims of the March 2019 catastrophe in Manicaland Province. Another project in the province under the aegis of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is the Manicaland State University. Other projects undertaken are Victoria Falls District Office (Matabeleland North); Kanyemba Matiga Pre-School, Chinhoyi District Office, Chinhoyi Magistrates’ Court and Chinhoyi University (Mashonaland West); rehabilitation works at Beitbridge Border Post (Matabeleland South); construction works at Mahusekwa Hospital, Kushinga Pikelela Hospital (block), Chivhu District Office and Mount Saint Mary’s Hospital (Mashonaland East); two developments at Bindura State University (Mashonaland Central); and Gokwe health posts (four), and Gweru Provincial Hospital (Midlands).
Peeping into the New Parliament Building
If parliaments are strong they become the bedrock of democracy in global politics. Parliamentarians are the voice of their constituents, whose expectations and aspirations they carry and project in the august House, thus, they represent the people.
Because a nation is as good as its justice system, for bad or hastily effected laws cause acrimony and hatred among citizens, thus, leading to civil strife, there is need to constantly up the bar in parliamentary debates. As one of their oversight roles, parliamentarians pass laws, and such laws are reflective of the cultural, historical, religious and political issues prevailing in any particular country. There is no better way of ascertaining effective representation than providing conducive space for parliamentarians to engage on behalf of their constituents. Hence, the construction of the gargantuan New Parliament Building in Mount Hampden, may be the Holy Grail required for proficient representation, and opening up of economic spaces for citizens.
As President Mnangagwa pointed out at the ground-breaking ceremony in November 2018, the current situation where 350 legislators (including the Senate and National Assembly), and 248 secretariat staff are crammed in a space meant for 100 representatives, does not augur well with principles of parliamentarism.
The idea born in 1983 with the Kopje as the proposed site, has now become a reality with the imposing building sitting on a 70-metre platform above the surrounding area, symbolically projecting legislative supremacy.
About 18 863 hectares have been set aside for the envisioned new city, three-tier site adjoining Mazowe and Zvimba Rural District councils and the City of Harare. The envisaged highway that will lead to the New Parliament Building already has a name. It is called Chairman Mao Boulevard, in honour of a great friend of Zimbabwe.
The future is brighter indeed, as new transport links will include high performance trains and an upgrade of the nearby Charles Prince Airport. The construction of the New Parliament Building was made possible through an RMB676,43 million grant from the People’s Republic of China. Feasibility studies were carried out by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design Company Limited in 2015.
The Government of Zimbabwe also expended US$2,4 million towards enabling works to kick-start the construction of the project.
The designs for the New Parliament Building which embody Zimbabwean culture and heritage were completed and approved in October 2017. The building comprises common areas, offices, special services, general public and Press areas, parking space and associated services.
Onsite workforce constitutes 135 Chinese experts and 350 Zimbabwean citizens. Other ministries that have come on board in support of the project are the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development who have worked on access roads and storm water drainage facilities, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
The New Parliament Building is expected to be complete by the beginning of 2021.
Looking into the future
As a way of easing the burden on commuters across the country, the Government, through the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), which is under the purview of the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, launched the Mass Transport System in January 2019. In October 2019, Government opened the ZUPCO franchise to commuter omnibus operators in a move intended to increase convenience for urban commuters.
As of November 2019, ZUPCO fleet stood at 500 conventional buses, both its own and those using its franchise, and 383 kombis. In March 2020, the parastatal took delivery of 65 more buses from China to bolster its fleet which will go a long way in the provision of an affordable, safe and reliable transport system to the people of Zimbabwe.
Devolution is another milestone achieved in the past three years as Zimbabwe looks into the future. The Second Republic has committed to the implementation of the programme through Treasury’s disbursement of $703 million allocated to 92 local authorities in the 2019 National Budget under intergovernmental transfers. Government has committed $2,9 billion to accelerate programmes implementation in 2020.
The funds were earmarked for capital projects that benefit citizens in the following service areas: schools and clinics, roads, plant and equipment, water, sewer and solid waste management, electricity and any other capital activities that may be deemed necessary for service provision.
The philosophy behind devolution is to eliminate marginalisation by decentralising power to provincial and metropolitan councils. In many areas countrywide water and sanitation issues are being addressed, schools and medical facilities are being constructed, road rehabilitation programmes are also ongoing to complement existing Government programmes.
Local authorities are utilising the funds to implement their projects.
Urban renewal is another aspect high on the agenda of the ministry’s priorities.
The Sakubva Urban Renewal programme, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe where Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are effectively used for economic growth in line with national Vision 2030, is on course. The venture which has been accorded National Project status is undertaken by the City of Mutare in collaboration with Plan Infrastructure Development and BancABC. Materials that will be used in the construction process will be allowed into the country duty-free. The project is aimed at improving the livelihoods of residents of Mutare’s oldest suburb through phased destruction and eventual regeneration of residential flats, market stalls, public and social amenities.
The development will focus on the following areas: about 264 hectares of Sakubva will be redeveloped; Sakubva Stadium/sports complex; Sakubva Beit Hall; Sakubva Musika long distance bus terminus; Sakubva Vegetable Market; Sakubva Flea Market; and high rise flats.
Objectives of the urban renewal project are to provide employment to over 10 000 citizens, enhanced land utilisation, improved service delivery, improvement in local economy, provision of a crime free environment and integration of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and home industry uses
New City Project
The construction of the New Parliament Building in Mount Hampden, about 20km from the City of Harare along Old Mazowe Road, has created an opportunity for a new city project. The area around Mount Hampden is poised for development to complement activities at the New Parliament.
The area’s proximity to Harare as well as its geographical environs offer opportunities for growth, and presents Zimbabwe with a chance to define herself as a nation through a home-grown plan pregnant with vast prospects for all citizens cutting across the entire gamut of human endeavour.
The new city’s design is projected to make use of the mixed-use development approach, which is a type of urban development that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial uses, where those functions are physically and functionally integrated. It involves the development of structures and communities that have a mixture of all or any of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, cultural and retail uses. Additionally, retailers benefit from the traffic flow of customers who reside closer to their businesses while residents enjoy the ease of proximity to numerous options.
In today’s global village these initiatives are becoming the norm for progressive advancement as they offer ways to efficiently utilise the land, while providing high quality lifestyles for those closer to developments.
Some of the key structures to be incorporated into the design of the new city are office parks, commercial entities, a hi-tech park, information communication technology centre park, institutional facilities, agro-processing structures, hotels, conference centre, golf course, apartments, cluster houses and garden flats, low density residential houses, civic centre game sanctuary, botanical garden, waste to energy management centre, roads and green buffers.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works is seized with engaging stakeholders to ensure that an informed decision is taken as the master plan is developed.
Indeed, there is so much to celebrate as Zimbabwe’s 40th anniversary draws close.