Mbuso Ndlovu, Analysis
THE celebrated Chronicle cartoonist could not hide his anger and frustration over the Bulawayo City Council disdain towards residents. A day after the nation’s best read had shocked the city’s residents with pictures of what BCC purports to be a world class shopping mall taking shape, Friday, November 11 saw the renowned cartoonist guns blazing thinking aloud in a bar whether councillors considered all flea markets, also known as khothama, to be shopping malls.
Coincidentally, on the same page the editorial comment aptly titled “Throwing US$60 million e(m)godini is crazy” also questioned the credentials of our city fathers. It defies logic as to how the tender to build Egodini Mall was awarded in the first place. Does anyone in or near Town House have an idea what a shopping mall is? That US$60 million which in Rwanda could build and equip several hospitals is not enough to fund a mere structure comprising shops is beyond belief.
Kwekwe City Council recently completed the redevelopment of the city’s bus terminus into a proper shopping mall thus successfully extending the central business district (CBD). The whole project did not cost a whole US$60 million and it did not take forever as our “Emgodini Mall” yet it is three or four times bigger.
There is also the Redcliff Shopping Complex and Megawatt Mall in Gweru that we could have learnt from, but in their wisdom or lack of it the councillors wasted money taking lessons from a vegetables vendors market at Gweru’s Kudzanai Bus Terminus. Jim Rohn once said either you run the day or the day runs you. It is time that the people of Bulawayo reclaimed their city. The last few years have shown that the councillors do not have Bulawayo at heart. Look at the pothole-riddled roads which they laughably try to mask with pitsand and gravel. Just a week ago, Woodville Park Road in Mahatshula was tarred from Harare Road but a few days later when it rained, it had developed potholes at the intersection of the two roads. This indicates lack of supervision yet millions of United States dollars would have been paid.
It gets even worse when one looks at the list of instances when millions of dollars have been thrown down emgodini by this council. Who recalls the scandalous purchase of a cremator for West Park Crematorium that was never delivered and now we hear about US$100 000 could have been lost forever. We need to fund a new cremator and hope to recover the initial deposit paid seven years ago.
The purchase of special service vehicles like ambulances, refuse trucks and fire-fighting equipment through some Harare briefcase companies, is it deliberate? Money has been lost but has anyone ever been charged or dismissed, fat chance. The demise of Ingwebu beerhalls, sports arenas, community vocational training centres, libraries eg Ascot, swimming pools eg Woodville and parks eg Nketa, Hume, Sauerstown, Gertrude and Paddonhurst has not ruffled feathers at City Hall.
Do we recall the ill- informed decision to use diesel generators to spite Zesa instead of negotiating over the debt? When did we last have street lights repaired or grass cut? The halls are dilapidated but it is only Bulawayo councillors who ban private wedding venues just to throttle small businesses.
One wonders what it would be like without the ambulance services from Emras, Mars and Netstar. As for the fire brigade, all we hear are excuses that they got the call late and waterpoints have been vandalised. Are they not supposed to regularly inspect such water sources rather than wait for an emergency? It is unwise to keep on doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. It is by acts and not ideas that people live as Harry E Fosdick once noted. Our councillors and their managers must know better.
Refuse collection in residential areas seems regular and dependable but in the CBD, especially around markets, a lot still needs to be done. A walk around town is traumatic and our city fathers may not be aware since they shop at the upmarket clean Bradfield, Ascot, Hillside, Fourwinds, Morningside, Southwold, Parklands and Woodlands MALLS. They have a laagar mentality and anything happening elsewhere doesn’t concern them.
As for the TTI parking scam, the less said the better. It is all about how much they have milked drivers and not how they have impacted roads maintenance and upgrading. The mayor and his management team are so enamoured of their plan that anyone else might as well take the high road to hell. Formed ostensibly to raise funds for the residents through extortionate fees, TTI has been a double-edged sword. City streets are now visibly clean and clearly marked. Irresponsible parking and uncouth behaviour on the roads has gone. But small businesses have had to shed staff or close altogether. Lucky ones have moved back to their home garages. TTI could be a win-win situation if only the arrogance of our city managers could be curtailed. For instance, if Masvingo City Council charges only a dollar per day which allows one to park anywhere in the city, how is it impossible for Bulawayo? Masvingo has far fewer vehicles than Bulawayo and if all those avoiding to pay for parking by moving out of the CBD or leaving cars at their children’s schools and colleges could pay that one dollar daily, we could raise thousands every day.
The number of cars in the CBD after hours is quite telling. Something is just not right and must be corrected if all the potential revenue could be harnessed.
The zeal to fight residents by our councillors and management could not be better exemplified than by the banning of scanias in the CBD and tombstones at cemeteries. It is known that people value how their dead are buried more than how they lived. Most people do not have medical insurance but almost everyone has some form of funeral aid. The BCC must know that we invest a lot in tombstones and what will happen to the money? Unless we embrace cremation that calls for a headstone only, we might see people erecting tombstones at night or on public holidays when Council staff will be away. Of interest is whether the councillors will not erect tombstones at their beloved Lady Stanley Cemetery where they are clamouring for spouses to be laid with them even though they may not have done anything for the city. It’s like saying all those at the National Heroes Acre must be buried with their spouses there. Malcolm Forbes was not lost when he noted that you can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.
That “Emgodini Mall” toilets are non-existent did not come as a surprise given that the council closed public toilets at the Revenue Hall. Those underground toilets were the best in the city and something close to world class. But alas our city managers could not relate and left open the dirty deplorable and dilapidated ones at City Hall terminus which they should have destroyed and replaced with new ones like those they locked up. Is it any wonder then that US$60 million is something that BCC leaders cannot really comprehend and appreciate if they cannot simply run public toilets.
Mr cartoonist, are we not asking for too much from this council. It must be time visionaries with the city at heart took control at City Hall.