We can’t build to destroy!

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We can’t build to destroy! The recently commissioned service station along Kambuzuma Road, Harare, which is threatened with demolition because it is allegedly built on a wetland. - Picture by Hildegarde

The Herald

The Arena Hildegarde
George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

An Internet micro-blogger (Philosiblog) argues: “There are plenty of reasons to not change. But without change, how will you progress? Without progress, how will you grow?”

Zimbabwe has been in the woods for some time, thus it is understandable if people are circumspect about rapid change, or have an “I couldn’t care less” attitude.

Some are comfortable with their business as usual mindsets, attitudes that crept in the way we conduct ourselves in every facet of their lives, business included, a long time ago.

Changing such mindsets is often an uphill struggle because people are not sure whether the change they are being asked to embrace will be beneficial.

This is why President Emmerson Mnangagwa has continually said in order for Zimbabwe to catch up with the levels of growth and development we see in developed countries, it will have to leapfrog two decades.

That cannot be denied, for despite having a decent foundation suitable for growth and development, the many years of isolation have seen Zimbabwe lagging behind in socio-economic and technological developments.

This calls for hard work and commitment if such strides are to be achieved.

Fortunately, the political will has never been better than it is now as President Mnangagwa continues to make that clarion call at home and abroad that “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

Government is encouraging all stakeholders to ensure that there is an ease of doing business environment; a conducive environment that will make the country a destination of choice for foreign investors.

It should be an environment that also entices locals to invest. Thus some laws have already been amended to ensure that they are in sync with the new modus operandi.

Giving a comparison of the Rwandan experience where he recently attended an African Union Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, President Mnangagwa alluded to the fact that the lengthy periods taken to register businesses should be a thing of the past. The new thrust is to emulate our Rwandese colleagues, where all the processes should be completed in five hours. This would give Zimbabwe a competitive edge.

This is why the writer says the political will to turn around the fortunes of this country is evident, but is it appreciated by all?

The goodwill from the international community has also bolstered the idea that Zimbabwe is open for business.

But, there are certain actions that need to be revisited in order to build trust among current and potential investors.

Dear reader, below is a case analysis of a project whose construction I witnessed on a daily basis until the official opening last week. These sentiments were initially raised on the writer’s micro-blog last week:

“I posted this picture of this service station (name withheld) a fortnight ago when construction work was in progress. Built along Kambuzuma Road, in Harare’s Kambuzuma high-density suburb, the service station was officially commissioned this week.

“What is shocking is that some people suddenly discovered that the service station was built on a wetland, and must be demolished.

“Either someone was sleeping on the job and/or wanted a bribe. For weeks work on end, construction of this project went on and no one spoke about it.

“Obviously, it did not start with construction, but we want to believe that the necessary paperwork was done and organisations such as the Harare City Council, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority were involved. What about the Environmental Management Agency?

“Yes, we must at all cost preserve wetlands, but why was this project allowed to start and proceed only for some people to raise a red flag that it was built on a wetland after it was commissioned by a senior Government official, Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs Miriam Chikukwa?

“This project did not start overnight. A close analysis of the picture taken by the writer shows how close it is to residential properties. Apart from that, it is a few metres from Kambuzuma Road and not far away from the Red Cross High School.

“My conclusion is that if the service station was built on a wetland, so too the houses just behind it and the other landmarks built during the colonial times. I won’t deny that on the other side of the service station, across the road, there are wetlands and we always wonder how the people who hold open-air church services do so, since, it’s wet most of the time.

“The same applies for those who try to do urban farming. They reap nothing every year.

“This service station is the latest developmental project in the western suburbs, after the launch of Aspindale Park, a middle income housing project along the same stretch of road – corner Kambuzuma Road/High Glen and Mupani Avenue in Marimba Park.

“People are happy with the positive facelift of this part of Harare since they are always neglected when it comes to developmental projects.

“We don’t question the professionals if their environmental impact assessments say this is a wetland. We also don’t question Government policies on wetlands, but why take people back to the era where projects would be worked on in full view of all stakeholders, only to hear through the media that orders have been issued to demolish them after they are complete and are operational?”

The writer makes reference to this project as one of the examples that can cause confusion in the mind of potential investors.

What would stop them from feeling that their business projects might face a similar fate where they spend thousands if not millions of dollars only to be told to demolish their structures?

Many householders around the country have faced a similar fate where they moved from office to office seeking official documentation for constructing their houses.

But some people’s houses were demolished as illegal structures, while others were destroyed because they were told they built them on undesignated pieces of land.

Meanwhile, these people would be left with the paper trail they officially obtained!

These were the arguments that the residents of Kambuzuma suburb presented, as they asked why the issue arose after the official opening of the service station, for they feel that this is a positive step in the development of their area.

They also worry that if the calls for demolition continue, it might not just affect Kambuzuma, but the whole nation, meaning that we will remain in the woods.

This is why change of doing business is vitally important for progress to take place, meaning that we do not have the luxury of building in order to  destroy.

It can’t be business as usual when Zimbabwe is fighting to attract investment. We won’t grow. It’s that simple.

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