The key pillar of Zimbabwe’s devolution programme is the empowerment of provincial structures to spearhead economic and social development through leveraging on local resources.
In the last few years, Manicaland has been making inroads in kick-starting projects that would drive the programme, which is expected to anchor the country’s economic recovery and growth by 2030.
One of the biggest projects for the province and indeed the country, is Sakubva Urban Renewal, being spearheaded by Plan Infrastructure Development and Mutare City Council and bankrolled by BancABC.
The US$8 million project will see the demolition of old flats and houses to pave way for high rise modern flats, revamping of the Sakubva Flea Market, Sakubva Bus Terminus, Sakubva Stadium, Sakubva Beithall and Sakubva Vegetable Market.
Built in 1925, Sakubva is the oldest suburb in Mutare and has the most derelict structures that have weathered the worst over time.
Most of the houses and blocks of flats are no longer fit for human habitation but because the residents have nowhere else to go, they continue to stay there.
President Mnangagwa in December last year commissioned the Sakubva Urban Renewal Project where he expressed shock at the squalid conditions some of the residents in Sakubva were living in.
He emphasised that all slums should be demolished to make way for a Smart City to be established in Mutare.
“Modern houses, clinics, schools, shopping malls and markets will be constructed here. I was impressed by this project because this is what we want to achieve when we talk of Zimbabwe as a middle-income economy by 2030. We want this to be history,” said President Mnangagwa.
As such, the project will drive Manicaland’s effort to achieve some of the Devolution agenda targets.
Devolution was adopted as a key component of the new Constitution and is recognized as one of its founding values and principles.
Chapter 14 of the 2013 Constitution provides for provincial and local governments. The preamble of this chapter reads:
Whereas it is desirable to ensure: (a) the preservation of national unity in Zimbabwe and the prevention of all forms of disunity and secessionism; (b) the democratic participation in government by all citizens and communities of Zimbabwe; and (c) the equitable allocation of national resources and the participation of local communities in the determination of development priorities within their areas; there must be devolution of power and responsibilities to lower tiers of government in Zimbabwe
The building of a modern city under the projectl also ties in well with the provisions of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 which speaks about making sustainable cities and communities through provision of affordable housing and building resilient societies and economies around the globe. According to the UN, this involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces and improving urban planning and management in participatory and inclusive ways.
“In the coming decades, 90 percent of urban expansion is expected to be in the developing world. The economic role of cities will be significant as they generate about 80 percent of the global GDP,” reads SDG 11.
This is how the Sakubva Urban Renewal project is structured.
It will enable the use of technologies such as solar, waste to biogas and other sustainable technologies in the flats and the revamped markets and terminus. The construction of a smart city will not only contribute to the management of urban expansion, it will definitely drive the economic agenda and change the landscape.
With work on the site currently going on, it is expected that the first block of flats will be completed in eight months. Sakubva Stadium renovations are almost complete with only a few oustanding issues being finalised. Mutare City Town Clerk Mr Joshua Maligwa said work at the site is on course and would be complete within the set timeframes.
Most of the residents of Sakubva were born in these old houses and they were not sure that they would die before their situation changed.
According to Gogo Shumba from Matida Flats, many of them had lost hope of ever living in a decent home, of having the ‘luxuries’ like running water and electricity.
“I started staying here in 1982 I have a heap of papers renewing my application with City council to find a house but I have had no luck. It is time for us to move to a better place,” she said.
Another resident Mrs Elizabeth Mugodi said it was high time most of the houses in Sakubva were destroyed as they were not safe anymore.
The new terminus and vegetable market at Sakubva are also expected to change the disorderly way business was being conducted at the market.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mutare City Council has had to decentralise the fresh produce market from Sakubva to Dangamvura, Chikanga and Hobhouse to minimise the number of people congregating at he market.
Although the move to decentralise the market was meant to control the flow of human traffic in one area, it has not worked as expected since the markets still record huge volumes of people and have been located in open spaces with inadequate amenities.
Farmers who bring their vegetables to Mutare from across the province say once the Sakubva market is revamped, it would be easier to do business for both the farmer and the buyers of their produce.
Said Mr Fanuel Moyo from Nyanga: “Council has provided these grounds for us to conduct business but the ground at Dangamvura ground and Hobhouse is not paved and the amount of dirt that you find here is not conducive for a place where food is handled. Water is also not easily accesible. If the Sakubva market is built in such a way that we have standard stalls, we will not hesitate to pay council for services. ”
When the project is complete, not only will it improve the lives of those people in Sakubva and its environs, it will open up more opportunities for the rest of the Manicaland community.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba has reiterated the importance of the smart city concept which she said would tie in with the global new Dispensation’s development agenda. She has also stressed the importance of utilising local resources in the project.
So local companies will definitely benefit from supplying materials while local artisans and contractors will be considered first for most of the works to be done.
About 25 000 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created through the project.
“These projects will create many jobs and will help to alleviate poverty among the locals as people will get employment. Shifts will be introduced to speed up the completion of the projects. We want people to live in decent accommodation, while our facilities are world class,” Dr Gwaradzimba said recently.
The Sakubva Urban Renewal project will definitely have a positive impact in terms of provision of decent accommodation for residents, it will also provide employment and be an opportunity for local businesses to thrive. Above all it will improve the economy of the city and the province, as well as its contribution to the national GDP.