Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
Harare City Council sabotaged a $250 million-loan deal that would have seen the capital city’s roads constructed, rehabilitated and maintained to world class standards, Parliament heard yesterday. The MDC-T-dominated council is also reportedly turning a blind eye to the flagrant violation of city by-laws manifest in the mushrooming of illegal structures and settlements, the kombi and pirate taxi (mshika-shika) menace, as well as vendor nuisance.
The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration had engaged an investor who intended to repair the capital’s pothole-riddled roads.
The deal was on condition that Zinara takes charge of parking fees collection, but still deposit the money with the city fathers to service the loan.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing yesterday, Zinara board members and management revealed that the city was on the verge of losing out on the deal because of its reluctance to meet its side of the bargain.
Zinara board chairperson Mr Albert Mugabe told the committee chaired by Zanu-PF MP for Mutasa South, Cde Irene Zindi, that Zinara did not intend to “steal” the city’s parking revenue.
“Parking by its very nature is revenue that is generated by the roads but it is difficult to ascertain if anything of that revenue is being ploughed back to the roads,” said Mr Mugabe.
“It is our contention as Zinara that ‘mombe iri kukamwa iyi varikubva vaikama zvekukanganwa mhuru yayo iri parutivi (the cash cow is being overmilked without benefit). Harare City Council had an opportunity to make a discernible impact on its road network if they were to assist us in the manner that we have requested.
“We are proposing that Zinara should be given the authority to manage the parking throughout Harare.”
He said their strength was in the fact that they had a verifiable system that investors found informative in terms of determining if they would be able to recoup their investment.
Mr Mugabe said they wanted money collected from parking to be directed towards road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.
“It is disheartening for us as Zinara that after having painstakingly negotiated a deal where the Harare City Council would have received an initial tranche of $50 million to rehabilitate its roads, this initiative is very likely going to come to naught because the City of Harare, for reasons best known to the city fathers does not want to engage Zinara on the issue of city parking.
“Our proposal to Harare City Council was that revenue generated from parking would not come into any Zinara coffers. It would go specifically to the roads account that will be held by the City of Harare. All we asked for was the permission and authority to audit the use of that money to ensure that it went into the roads.
“So we were not taking anything away from them. Instead we were enhancing the efforts of road construction, maintenance and rehabilitation.
“There was an initial tranche of $50 million but the investor had promised that if the first $50 million went well, he would go on to invest an additional $200 million,” said Mr Mugabe.
He said they tried to convince the investor to engage the City of Harare directly but he was reluctant.
Mr Mugabe said Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Obert Mpofu approached the then Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Dr Ignatius Chombo over the matter who supported the idea and encouraged the City of Harare to embrace the initiative.
He said following the coming in of Minister Saviour Kasukuwere as Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, the city fathers changed goalposts, clearly taking advantage of the fact that Minister Kasukuwere had not been clearly briefed on what Minister Chombo had agreed to.
Mr Mugabe said they would request Minister Mpofu to appraise Minister Kasukuwere of the initiative so that he could provide them with guidance.
Cde Zindi asked if Zinara only wanted to manage parking fees collections in Harare and leave the other cities.
“This initiative is not only for the City of Harare. I have highlighted the City of Harare because they have shunned the initiative. In other cities, we are at various stages of presenting this proposal. So it’s definitely going on. Bulawayo is very interested, they have agreed in principle. They want to study it in greater detail,” said Mr Mugabe.