THE two MDC formations in the inclusive government have distanced themselves from plans to build a new capital city in Mt Hampden, which plans a senior minister in the Zanu PF part of government, Ignatius Chombo, has confirmed.
Report by Everson Mushava Chief Reporter
Yesterday, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jameson Timba said as far as government was officially aware, the only existing plans were the construction of a new Parliament building in Mt Hampden.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, secretary-general in the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, also expressed surprise.
“I have never heard about that, certainly not,” the Regional Integration and International Co-operation minister said.
“It is premature to talk of building a new city when the already existing cities are decaying. We should be making sure that we improve infrastructure in our cities before moving into building another city.”
Chombo, the Local Government minister, said on Monday government intended to build a new state-of-the-art capital in Mt Hampden, which lies in President Robert Mugabe’s home district in Mashonaland West province, to ease pressure on the overpopulated Harare, among other reasons.
Timba said Cabinet only approved the construction of the new Parliament building in Mt Hampden ahead of the originally agreed Kopje site in Harare, but there was no Cabinet resolution on construction of an entirely new capital city.
“There are no such plans as yet which have been discussed by government,” Timba said.
“In future as the city grows, it is important to decongest the central business district. At this stage, however, Chombo is expressing a personal view, which he is yet to forward to Cabinet.”
Musihairabwi-Mushonga said the idea to build “another Sandton” (a wealth section of Johannesburg in South Africa) was purely a Zanu PF plan, reiterating government did not have the money for such a grand project.
She added: “As usual, you never know, it could be diamond funds that they intend to use to build the city.”
Many Zimbabweans sprung into debate over the report of the new capital as soon as it was publicised by NewsDay yesterday. They expressed varying views both for and against the building of a new capital in Zvimba.
“It’s a good idea though because that area was just abandoned while Harare was crowded,” one reader wrote.
“This is a great idea for the future,” another one said. “When I say future, I mean when we have enough money to support the basic things that a country needs — water, electricity, proper education facilities, health care that’s affordable.”
He warned the proposed capital city would end up benefiting only 1% of the population while the rest became gardeners and housemaids in the affluent city, the way it is in Sandton.
Others dismissed the idea, arguing there was need to use that money to revive collapsing infrastructure such as roads, revive industries and create employment. There was need for government to revive schools, generate enough power and secure more jobs, they said.
Others said it would have been a better idea to shift the capital city to Gweru to balance national development.
“Capacitate these small cities and this will certainly ease the pressure on Harare. Youths from these areas and from rural areas would get jobs and business opportunities.
“In South Africa, Nigeria and Japan, to mention a few countries, nations thrive on relocating capital cities, thus enabling equitable development rather than starting to build new cities, which is much more costly,” another reader said.