EDITORIAL COMMENT: Bulawayo marches on President Mnangagwa commissions the Hopeville Housing Project in Bulawayo

President Mnangagwa yesterday launched a property development project and an agro-processing initiative in Bulawayo that should breathe more life into the economies of the city and its adjoining rural areas.

The projects, valued at $2, 2 billion have already created at least 4 000 jobs. Hopeville Housing Project will be Bulawayo’s biggest integrated property development initiative and easily its plushiest to match Borrowdale Brooke in Harare and South Africa’s Kempton Park.

The $2 billion project, sitting on 650 hectares on both sides of Airport Road close to Reigate and Woodville suburbs, will have up to 20 000 affluent houses, up-market shopping malls and recreational facilities including an 18-hole golf course.

Bulawayo’s first genuinely gated community will also have a police station. Since the total number of properties will be more than Gwanda’s, Hopeville, being developed by Thompson Properties led by prominent businessman, Jim Goddard, is likely to be a stand-alone local authority.

Mr Peter Cunningham’s Sondelani Ranching has invested $2 million in the tomato-processing project that has created thousands of jobs in rural areas around Bulawayo through its out-grower system.

Farmers are receiving inputs from Sondelani Ranching to grow tomatoes which the company collects and processes into tomato paste. It adds value to 150 tonnes of tomatoes to produce about 30 tonnes of tomato paste daily. Sondelani is well established in the poultry and stock-feed manufacturing business. Hundreds of farmers in Matobo rear chickens on contract for the company and are earning money through the project.

Said the President:
“This project will equally stimulate employment creation directly in the construction process as well in downstream industries such as steel fabrication, joinery, timber, plumbing and electrical products, among others.

Again I congratulate Bulawayo for taking the lead. I urge the companies involved in the housing development projects to always seek to work with and empower small and medium enterprises, women and youths. Going forward, we call for concurrent development between housing settlements and economic activities in the respective areas. It is our hope that the growth of such investments denotes the rise and re-birth of Bulawayo Province.”

We agree with him that projects of this magnitude signal the re-birth of Bulawayo, the former industrial hub of the country that has however fallen from grace. More than 20 000 people have lost jobs over the past 18 years and factories for which the city was famed are now only shells. A few have been turned into churches.

Thompson Properties and Sondelani Ranching deserve plaudits for showing their confidence in Bulawayo. As the President pointed out, the projects have created jobs directly and downstream. Furthermore, the investments will mean more business for companies that provide bricks, cement, steel, timber and so on.

More of such big investments will help Bulawayo to become a 21st century city in line with the President’s vision to transform the country to middle income status by 2030.

We are particularly excited about Hopeville. A gated community of the scale that Thompson Properties is setting up will indeed contribute to the multifaceted transformation of Bulawayo.

It will make the city more attractive or more beautiful given that the houses being built would be world-class, the same for the proposed shopping malls and the golf course.

On another note, the project highlights the fact that Bulawayo is getting back to life after years of only low-cost housing and commercial investment. That will be good for the city’s image too which will serve the city well in its efforts to attract more investment.

Bulawayo’s housing waiting list is more than 100 000. If we consider that in the next 10 years or so, Hopeville alone would have delivered 20 000 homes it is clear how important the project is for the city and its efforts to reduce its housing backlog. If more housing projects of this size are developed, Bulawayo and the Government would have done a lot to achieve their common target for decent housing for all.

We know that merely subdividing land into residential stands does not automatically translate to public access to housing. The people must find the stands affordable and worth their while.

In this context, we were encouraged by Mr Goddard’s remarks yesterday that a significant number of the stands in the initial phases of the mega project have been taken up already, some by Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. This means that the project may have generated foreign currency which the economy desperately needs.

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