FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has pledged over $300 000 for renovations of the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) ahead of the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa ( ICASA) being hosted by Zimbabwe next month.
By Phyllis Mbanje
In a bid to avoid embarrassment over the state of the facility, which will be one of the main venues for the biggest conference ever to be held in the country, the First Lady reportedly came to the rescue with a commitment to donate over $300 000 towards lighting, replacement of carpets and chairs.
The conference centre was reportedly in a sorry state, with torn, stained, threadbare carpets and broken chairs.
Announcing the offer during a breakfast meeting for editors, Health minister David Parirenyatwa said they were grateful for the timely donation.
“We approached her in New York during the UN General Assembly and she asked for details and promised to get back to us after a week,” he said.
HICC is owned by the Rainbow Tourism Group which is listed on the Zimbabwe stock Exchange.
Grace will host First Ladies from various countries.
Her contribution comes at a time an aggressive fundraising campaign has been launched, six weeks before the conference is held. The government has pledged $700 000.
In total around $3,6 million was needed to successfully host the occasion, which will be attended by more than 7 000 delegates among them scientists, policymakers, activists, people living with HIV and civil society representatives.
Delegates were expected to review the HIV and Aids response mechanisms adopted by countries, as well as come up with ways of strengthening the partnership among governments and co-operating partners.
Zimbabwe successfully bid to host the ICASA conference after Tunisia, which had initially won the bid, failed to meet security requirements.
The cancellation of the Tunisia bid paved the way for nine other African countries that then expressed interest to host the conference.
However, five of the countries failed the screening process, leaving four countries to contest for the bid.
Zimbabwe was one of the four countries selected for further assessment and a delegation from ICASA came to determine whether Zimbabwe had the capacity to hold the conference.