Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) risks losing the $12 million funding for the construction of hostels for the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) students if the dispute with residents is not resolved.
Residents from neighbouring Selbourne Park have raised objections to the students’ accommodation complex being built off campus saying the move would downgrade the status of the up-market residential area.
“We are now concerned over the continued delays in starting off the construction of the Bulawayo students’ accommodation complex, which is along the Gwanda road,” IDBZ chief executive officer, Mr Zondo Sakala, said.
“The investors of the project are now getting a little bit jittery asking if the project is still going to take off, otherwise they might still as well move those resources elsewhere.”
In an interview after the commissioning of the IDBZ southern regional office in Bulawayo Monday, Mr Sakala said construction of the students’ accommodation project, which could have taken off last year, was being delayed due to the protest by local residents.
“Some complaints are that if we build outside the campus, we are sabotaging the university, which I think is a bizarre argument. There is no university I know of that has all its students housed on campus,” said Mr Sakala.
“Some of the objections that we have received really don’t have objective basis because we have also heard complaints from residents saying it (Bulawayo students’ accommodation project) is going to downgrade the standing of the neighbourhood.
“But the same neighbourhood has houses with three or four bedroom houses with six, 10, 15, 20 students packed in those houses so we don’t believe this is being done with a positive spirit and it is important that we allow proper facilities to be built in the interest of our children.”
Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record saying only 15 percent of students at State universities have accommodation at the campus halls of residence while the rest rely on lodgings in areas surrounding the universities. The past two decades have seen huge changes in higher education, the number of students has increased to over 70 000 and only just above 11 000 have accommodation.
The Government has noted the need for increased investments in learning space, accommodation facilities, recreational and other supporting facilities.
Recently, IDBZ moved out of commercial banking to become a dedicated infrastructure development institution with its infrastructure development projects being funded by pension funds and asset managers.
Mr Sakala said the arguments being put by local residents were unfortunate and delaying commencement of the project. It is envisaged that on completion, the Bulawayo project will accommodate 1 023 students from universities in and around Bulawayo.