EDITORIAL COMMENT : Sadc Summit to unlock major spin-offs

THE 44th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, to be held in Harare in August, has several implications and benefits for Zimbabwe.

Selecting Zimbabwe as the host country means that SADC totally accepts the results of the elections in August last year without any reservations, and is more than happy for President Mnangagwa to be the next chairperson and the face of the regional bloc to the world.

The second implication is that the rest of SADC, and the body’s secretariat, are confident that Zimbabwe can host the summit with the appropriate facilities. This might have been a bit difficult a few years ago, after the lack of investment and reinvestment during the eras of hyperinflation and dollarisation, when economic growth was close to zero.

As was noted by President Mnangagwa himself when he was elected into office, Zimbabwe had been overtaken in the economic growth tables by its neighbours who had pushed forward in the right direction.

But after six years of the Second Republic, a great deal has been done and is continuing to be done, so no one is worried and Zimbabwe can take its turn as host.

There are a string of benefits for Zimbabwe. First Mt Hampden area is getting its essential infrastructure so that the planned development there is getting a good start and will be built on a solid foundation.

This includes the road network and the access to the new Parliament Building, along with the long-delayed upgrading of existing roads. While the new roads grab the headlines, and Parliament does need to be fully accessible and not hidden away, the upgrade of the highways in northwest Harare has become urgent as development continues. Much of the work being done was already scheduled as part of the rehabilitation and necessary upgrades of the Harare-Chirundu highway.

Much of the money for the roadworks, new and rehabilitation, was already budgeted for and would have been spent this year or next year. In many cases what has been done is to get the contractors already assigned to rehabilitation to start at the city end of their stretches.

Nemakonde Road was supposed to have been dualised throughout its length to the new development in Bluff Hill more than 25 years ago, but the dual carriage way ended far short of that goal.

Now the work is being done and the residents of northwest Harare will benefit by having their major access road brought up to the standard planners wanted some time ago.

The actual Mount Hampden area itself was supposed to have a core of commercial development to accompany the State development starting with the new Parliament building. This is now happening with the construction of the villas for the SADC Heads of State and Government.

But that particular development is not being retained as a Government project, being more of the starting point for the hotel that the area requires.

Mount Hampden will grow organically, but that growth could easily be second rate or side-tracked without the essential infrastructure and facilities now being constructed and put in place.

We have seen too many examples of how some commercial developers, even legal ones, are prepared to put up with the second rate or worse.

To some extent the summit allows the Second Republic to show off a bit, and not just to the SADC Heads of State, but to all those who will be coming, including media and others.

Zimbabwe has not had the best of foreign press coverage in recent years and a lot of people may well have picked up distorted views of the country.

Tourism is picking up, so there have been more visitors, but even here the majority of visitors are for the main tourism areas, and either do not visit Harare or just use it as an airport.

There is still a lot to be done, as we all know, in and around Harare, but generally we are moving away from the worst of what was there.

For a start, for several years, the emergency roads programme of the central Government has seen almost all the main arterial roads in the city and surrounding areas fixed, work that continues and will continue long after the summit is over. So at least a visitor can now visit many more areas.

There have been suggestions that tours could be arranged, and that is worth following up so that a lot of the development that has been done over the past six years can be seen.

As tourism picks up, Harare and its commercial sectors need to play their part, as some commentators have noted.

A lot of the nightlife was declining in the years of low growth and low tourism, and much of what was left was killed off during the Covid-19 lockdowns. A fair amount was in any case illegal, and built around bottle stores rather than proper night entertainment.

However, with growing investment into the upper end of the market, such as being done by the new owners of Meikles Hotel and the increase in business being registered by other hotels, there are now opportunities for other innovative commercial leaders in the entertainment and artistic world to think about what markets could now support.

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