A clean city is a healthy city. This is what all cities aspire to become and while some like the Rwandan capital, Kigali, have managed to achieve this, others like Harare still have a long way to go.
The city has in recent years ceased to be the “Sunshine city” due to a number of factors, one of which was pointed out by President Mnangagwa while officially opening the new Labour Court building along Rotten Row on Monday.
President Mnangagwa urged Harare Mayor Councillor Herbert Gomba to ensure that all property owners refurbish their buildings to restore this status.
We fully subscribe to the President’s call because the face of Harare is its buildings.
Save for a few that have been refurbished, a number of buildings in the city are in a deplorable state after having gone for years without receiving due attention despite the owners’ continuous focus on profits without reinvesting in their structures.
What is particularly interesting is that council owns some of the neglected buildings in the city.
A case-in-point is Trafalgar Court, a block of flats which council is leasing.
The building has not received any meaningful attention over the years.
It is therefore our humble submission that before the city goes after other proprietors, it should first put its house in order.
Charity should begin at home!
It is our firm belief that the maintenance of buildings should not be a painful or expensive exercise if done constantly.
A simple dash or splash of paint here and there after a few months will do wonders in transforming the outlook of buildings and their surroundings instead of having to wait for major rehabilitation work.
The new Labour Court is a typical example of what a dash of paint can do to a building. While the building itself is not new, its rehabilitation has turned it into an ultra-modern building which in turn has changed the outlook of downtown Harare where it is located, which used to be an eyesore due to numerous activities that used to take place within the vicinity of the buildings.
The area now has an aura of modernity and very soon owners of buildings within that area will feel the heat and attend to their buildings.
We believe the same system can work for the rest of the city if council takes the lead in attending to its properties.
Council’s rehabilitation of blocks of residential flats in Mbare under its smart city concept is a good start, but we feel that it should quicken the pace if it is serious about becoming a smart city by 2025.
It will then be easier to convince other property owners to do the same without necessarily having to resort to the stick.
However, the city should also enhance its by-laws as suggested by the President.
This will, however, require improved enforcement on the part of council. Previous attempts to enforce existing by-laws on buildings that had been converted to accommodate unapproved business have yielded little result.
In August 2012, Harare City Council launched a blitz that condemned various buildings for flouting health and fire safety standards.
Council declared the high-rise buildings unsafe or unfit for human use.
The buildings, council said at the time, had violated several city by-laws by posing a danger to occupants and the general public.
The condemned buildings were Robin House, Dublin House, Daventry House, Stewart and Lloyds, Bush House, Roslin House, Msasa House, Mahachi Quardum Building and Winston House.
However, some of the buildings remained open while conditions in others deteriorated.
Council will do well to complement other improvements taking place within the city such as the rehabilitation of roads by ensuring that they are lined by attractive buildings which will make Harare a world class city and play its part in the attainment of Vision 2030.
The ball is firmly in Harare City Council’s court.