The curious proposal to sell Meikles Park to a Chinese diamond mining company has caused apprehension in the scenic eastern border city of Mutare.
At the face of it the transaction looks like an ordinary business deal between a local authority and a Chinese investor, but in reality the whole pact stinks to high heaven.
The Mutare City Council was forced to put the deal on ice after City Fathers refused to succumb to pressure from the Local Government ministry.
Mutare mayor Brian James and his council passed a resolution against transferring ownership of the piece of land to the Chinese firm before full payment of the property was done.
“In order to safeguard our interests, we resolved that no individual or group of individuals sign or cause to release the ownership of the city land from city council. Only until such a time that the council through a full council meeting acknowledges full payment either in cash or equivalent will we release Meikles Park,” James said.
While we congratulate the mayor and his team for putting the interests of Mutare residents first before those of the Chinese and senior officials from the Local Government ministry, we encourage the City Fathers to reflect on the importance of Meikles Park to this beautiful city.
Selling Meikles Park to the Chinese or any other investors would be the biggest scandal of our time. Meikles Park is the equivalent of Africa Unity Square in Harare or maybe Centenary Park in Bulawayo.
These are symbolic places where people from all walks of life converge on a daily basis, to relax, socialise and enjoy the scenic views, including the little flora and fauna available in an urban setting. Meikles Park is the heartbeat and face of Mutare, a place where the ordinary Mutare resident feels ownership of this beautiful town.
Almost all cities in the world have such places. Instead of even contemplating its sale, the local authority should in fact be planning seriously on how the park can be spruced up.
Like one of our readers noted, the council has ideal land that these Chinese can buy and set up whatever ventures they want to invest in. One example is the land adjacent to the swimming pool, Main Bath, along Robert Mugabe Avenue, which has been idle for decades.
Giving away a place that is symbolic to the people of Mutare to the Chinese must be resisted by all patriotic Zimbabweans.
What has further raised our eyebrows are assertions by the Local Government ministry that the council was overcharging the Chinese.
“It boggles the mind. If the city demands $1,7 million and the Chinese ‘looter’ is willing to pay, why would Local Government (officials) say the price is inflated?” asked one of our readers.
“Isn’t this money going to benefit Zimbabweans staying in Mutare? If it is indeed true the ministry has taken that position, then we wonder whose interests they are serving.”
This reader is correct especially after the city’s town clerk Obert Muzawazi stormed out of council chambers during a debate over the controversial deal.
Mutare residents must stand up and say “No” to this deal because it does not seem to serve them at all. We do not want to wake up one day to find we are barred from getting into the park which the Chinese could very well convert into an exclusive Chinese family retreat.