By Dumisani Nsingo
Hwange Local Board has entered into an agreement with Old Mutual Zimbabwe for the development of a town centre, which will encompass the establishment of an estimated US$50 million Civic Centre, an official has said.
Speaking after a tour of various infrastructural development projects in Hwange Town on Thursday, HLB resident engineer, Philip Nguni, said the local authority had awarded Old Mutual the tender to develop a town centre and work at the 12,5 hectare site was expected to commence this year.
The development of Hwange’s first Central Business District and Civic Centre was mooted about five years ago but the local authority has over the years been struggling to attract an investor for the project.
“I am glad to say that Hwange Local Board has successfully negotiated with one of the biggest land developers in the country to develop the Civic Centre. We have been on the hunt for an investor for the last five years and I am happy to say that we have actually finalised negotiations with an investor who will be developing our Civic Centre so we are expecting work to start during the course of this year,” said Eng Nguni.
A civic centre is a prominent land area within a community that is constructed to be its focal point or centre. It usually contains one or more dominant public buildings, which may also include Government offices.
Hwange has been without a focal point since its founding in 1899, with the apportioning of land being done by big companies namely Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), Zesa’s subsidiary Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
The latest development is a major step towards the official according of town status to Hwange. Last year President Mnangagwa directed the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to elevate Hwange to municipal status. Hwange is a local board authority created by statute under the Urban Councils Act, Chapter 29:15.
HLB chairperson Councillor Nqobile Mabhena said the development of a town centre and Civic Centre would go a long way towards attracting investment in the area.
“As Hwange we have vast investment opportunities which needed to be tapped and we expect the development of a proper Central Business District and Civic Centre to lure investors and emancipate the growth of Hwange’s economy,” he said.
In its report, provisional design concept and bid document, Old Mutual states that the proposed project was expected to be a win-win basis for the two parties.
“Current retail and office rentals in Zimbabwe are extremely low at present. This makes the assessment of economic viability extremely difficult. We have therefore taken a bold view in determining returns on a medium term basis. The value added to the council in respect of rates and revenue should compensate over time for risk-related development in the short term.
“Old Mutual Property serves Old Mutual Life Assurance Company, as well as over 20 pension funds, and therefore there is scope to involve a number of players, depending on their appetite for property investment.
“We trust the council will consider the strength of Old Mutual in deciding to offer the land to ourselves,” read part of the report.
The report further reveals that Old Mutual has over the years been involved in various major infrastructural development projects in various areas across the country. Sunday News