/ 2 May 2014

Mugabe’s home to be the new capital?

If President Mugabe has his way
If President Mugabe has his way

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo is proceeding with plans for the creation of Zimbabwe’s new capital city in President Robert Mugabe’s home district of Zvimba.

The project was vehemently opposed by former partners in the government of national unity: former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party and former industry minister Welshman Ncube’s MDC.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has, however, continued to work on the plans, which the Mail & Guardian understand to be moving ahead. According to sources and documents seen by the M&G, Chombo last month carved out a portion of land for the project in Mazowe, starting from Mugabe’s dairy farm where he runs his business Gushungo Holdings, to land extending to Mt Darwin and Nyambira.

The land has now been demarcated as New Harare City by Chombo’s ministry. Several ministries and departments have been roped in to align their operations with the new delineations, an official working for the ministry of mines said.

The latter ministry has effectively sealed off the areas, which hold vast gold deposits, from any new mining claims. This means the area is now considered urban and so mining activities have been proscribed.

The official from the ministry of mines said: “The whole portion of land from Gushungo [Mugabe’s farm] to Nyabira is now reserved. We no longer accept pegging of mining claims in the area.”

A geological map for the Mazowe, Nyabira and Mt Hampden areas has been clearly labelled New Harare City by the ministry of mines – to highlight that the areas are now considered urban in line with the ­latest development.

The Mazowe area across the Bindura highway – on which first lady Grace Mugabe’s orphanage and private school project operate – has not been incorporated into the New Harare City plan. It is a few miles away from Gushungo Holdings, on the other side of the road.

Nyabira, Mt Hampden and parts of Mazowe are under the Zvimba Rural District Council. Zvimba district is bordered by Guruve to the north, Mazowe to the east, Harare to the southeast, Chegutu to the south, Kadoma to the southwest and Makonde to the west and northwest.

Mugabe’s rural home is in Zvimba. Minister of Mines Walter Chidhakwa is also from Zvimba.

No comment
An official from the Harare City Council said they were aware of the plans but said they were not “very involved”. He said, however, that the hope among the city council executives was that the New Harare City would be incorporated into their administration. “So far, we are not sure of the government’s broader plan.”

The M&G could not get a comment from Harare’s town clerk, Tendai Mahachi, and the chamber secretary Jesphine Ncube; they were both said to be unwilling to make press comments.

Zvimba Rural District Council chief executive officer Shacky Siyamayambo said he could not comment on the development because they were not involved.

“It’s beyond us,” Siyamayambo said, referring questions to Chombo – who was not taking calls.

Sources at Harare’s Town House, the capital’s administration centre, said they were aware of a few individuals involved in the plan but were not aware of the extent of their involvement.

The M&G understands that Chombo’s master plan to shift Harare’s central business district to Zvimba was put together by Sasha Jogi, a special interest councillor for Harare (appointed by Chombo). Jogi, an urban planner, is a director with the Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners and a partner with engineering consultancy Arup Zimbabwe.

Jogi could not be contacted for comment as he was reportedly locked in meetings in Kadoma, a town 140km southwest of Harare. Peter Rix, a consultant with Arup, said Jogi was “the best person to comment on the project”.

“We’re in the middle of a huge tender submission and I can’t comment but Dr Jogi would be the best person to talk to you about those developments,” Rix said.

Features in the new capital
A new parliamentary building, which was scheduled for construction in Harare’s Kopje area, is now going to be built on a 240-hectare plot in Mt Hampden Kopje, an area that is in New Harare City.

Chombo told the state-controlled media two years ago that the construction of the new parliament in Mt Hampden would be the beginning of another satellite town for Harare – with villas, flats, a hotel, a restaurant and a nine-hole golf course surrounding it.

A new university, technology centre, schools, churches, hospitals and an industrial site are some of the features expected to be established in the new capital.

A state house as well as official residences for the speaker of Parliament and the Senate president are envisaged to be constructed in the new capital.

Five suburbs will be added to New Harare City: Oldbury, Mt Hampden, Mgutu, Marryvale and Nyabira. Several plots have already been allocated in Mt Hampden, where politicians are understood to be among the list of beneficiaries.

Nyabira is currently a high-density suburb but will expand to incorporate a low-density suburb.

According to documents seen by the M&G, Oldbury, Marryvale and Mgutu low-density suburbs will be established on Oldberry Farm, Merryvale Farm and Muguti Farm.

A source said Mugabe in May 2012 put together a six-member committee consisting of representatives of the ministry of local government then headed by Chombo, the ministries of foreign affairs; environment and natural resources management; national housing and social amenities; transport, communication and infrastructure development; and public works.

Under the unity government, Chombo had sidelined former Cabinet ministers Joel Gabuza, who led the ministry of public works, and Giles Mutseyekwa, who led the ministry of national housing and social amenities. Both are members of the MDC.

Gabuza has said that the project was “shrouded in secrecy”, arguing that he was supposed to chair a Parliamentary committee whose chairmanship was taken over by Chombo under unclear circumstances.

The Parliamentary committee was, however, supposed to investigate the (Harare) Kopje plan, and not the Zvimba project, said Gabuza.

Parliamentary records indicate that the Chombo committee has never reported to Parliament.

The speaker of Parliament could not be reached for comment on why Chombo’s committee had never reported to the House.