IN December 2019, President Mnangagwa took some time off his busy schedule to launch the Sakubva Urban Renewal project in Mutare’s oldest high-density suburb.
Considering that the project needs large capital outlay, it was awarded national project status.
Such a status is often granted to allow free import duty for equipment and a range of other tax exemptions to speed up the implementation of huge national assignments.
The project was expected to start by end of March 2020.
Unfortunately, around that same time the country’s first case of Covid-19 was recorded, marking the beginning of a taxing fight with the virus.
When it was announced that funding challenges and Covid-19 national lockdowns would delay the project’s kick-off, it made a lot of sense.
After all, the world was pressing the pause button on almost every economic, social or political activity.
As things stalled, it was only to be expected that the groundwork was being laid in the background for the speedy implementation of the project as soon as the situation permitted.
But almost two-and-a-half years down the line, there is still no smart city to talk about.
In fact, not even a single brick has been laid for the commencement of the project.
Early last year, it was reported that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) was joining hands with financier, BancABC, to fund the ambitious project.
Still, Sakubva remains dilapidated.
People continue to share unsightly public toilets. Vegetable vendors continue putting their lives and those of their customers at risk by selling their products next to the sewage flowing at the Sakubva markets.
Board chairman of the Sakubva Urban Renewal Company says they have secured new investors who are expected to start construction before the end of the first quarter.
Hopefully, this will not be another false start.
Built in 1925, most of Sakubva’s century-old houses are now in a poor state.
The Sakubva Urban Renewal project will see the demolition of the dilapidated houses and the modernisation of the old and run-down suburb through the construction of high-rise flats for the benefit of the province’s growing population.
It will turn Mutare into a smart city in line with Vision 2030.
In addition, a Sakubva Flea Market and Green Market, a bus terminus and a sports complex will be constructed for the benefit of local farmers, entrepreneurs and sports enthusiasts.
Such projects dovetails with the nation’s Vision 2030 of attaining an upper middle-income economy status in the next eight years.
By the year 2030, people should have access to comfortable accommodation, navigable roads, good schools and medical facilities as well as clean drinking water.
As local authorities and Government join forces to improve the aesthetics of the country’s towns, cities and growth points through the construction of roads, bridges, schools, clinics and houses across the province and the nation at large; employment opportunities are being created, with corresponding better living conditions.
Government is already making great progress through devolution and the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP2).
In all these projects, there is great need for strong interface between Government and the local authorities.
When this holistic approach is adopted, it promotes accountability and urgency in how projects are implemented.
But while Mutare City Council is the first local authority in Zimbabwe to embark on the noble smart city initiative, it should not end in Mutare.
The urban renewal project must be replicated across the province and in other councils outside Manicaland to promote modernisation and urban expansion.
Archaic and malfunctioning infrastructure simply has to go as it does not resonate with the country’s 2030 projections.
Till next week, let’s chew the cud.
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