Book Café, Mannenberg close

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One of Zimbabwe’s most prominent Arts and Culture hangouts, the Book Café and the Mannenberg at the Five Avenues Mall in Harare, are set to close their doors to the public at the end of the month.

Pamberi Trust which owns the two joints said they had received a notice to vacate the premises, owned by Old Mutual Property Investments. The popular outlets had operated from Fife Avenue since 1997.

“The owners of Fife Avenue Mall, OK Zimbabwe Pension Fund and its agents Old Mutual Property Investments, served notice to all tenants . . . that they intend to occupy the premises from 2012,” said Pamberi Trust.

However, OK Zimbabwe chief executive officer Willard Zireva refuted the claims saying: “That is not correct. Old Mutual are the owners of the building and they are the people who would give tenants notice to vacate. We just told Old Mutual that we wanted to redevelop the place so it’s not us. We just said we needed more space because we believe it will be good for our customers.”

But, Pamberi Trust founder Paul Brickhill retorted: “One has to wonder what kind of Zimbabwean spirit and legacy we will create for future generations when the needs of civic cultural and intellectual life are so easily supplanted by those of commerce and profit, even while they can co-exist happily. Some 350 artists earn a dignified livelihood at the venues, as well as 45 staff. Never in its history did it offend. All have been welcome and so all came to visit at one time or other.”

He said the hangouts close after hosting over 7 500 concerts and functions, 650 public discussions, 35 theatre productions and over 70 book launches including that of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai At the Deep End last week.

Brickhill added: “This festive season is our last in this venue, and this New Year’s Eve is the last we shall enjoy together at this place, with a hug and a wish for the coming year at midnight.”