BY Stephen Chadenga
GWERU City Council has set plans to turn the mayoral mansion into an accommodation and events centre in a bid to boost revenues for the cash-strapped local authority, a senior council official has said.
Acting finance director Owen Masimba said council would engage a private partner to convert the 20-roomed mansion, which has become a white elephant, into a money spinning venture.
“As part of our planned capital projects for this year, we intend to enter into a joint venture with a potential partner to turn the mayoral mansion into an accommodation and events centre,” Masimba said at a recent first-quarter budget review meeting.
“We have set aside a budget of $300 000 to renovate the mansion, and we have since issued an advert for expression of interest into the project. We should be able to hire out the mansion so that it can bring revenue to council.”
Council made the resolution four years ago to turn the mansion, which has been lying idle since the departure of then mayor, Sesel Zvidzai in 2008 into a lodge, but the project stalled after there were proposals for town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza to use it as her residence.
The move to turn it into a residence of the town clerk was, however, resisted by residents and council had to abandon the plan.
The local authority has since bought Gwatipedza a house as part of benefits for her services.
In 2016, the Judicial Services Commission approached council, requesting to lease the building and use it as the seat for High Court sessions, but residents objected the move, arguing council would not benefit from such a deal.
The mayoral mansion is one white elephant that Gweru has for years been urged to exploit, as the city’s coffers are running dry due to dwindling income streams to sustain the local authority’s successive budgets.
At one point, council tried to lease out the property for $3 000 per month to interested tenants, but found no takers.