Cry my beloved country

COVID-19 tests u-turn
President Emmerson Mnangagwa

By Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Your Excellency, it is no secret that Zimbabwe’s major cities and towns’ infrastructure has been steadily falling apart for the last 31 years. Our cities have a multitude of crumbling roads, bridges, aging dams, outdated airports and obsolete telecommunication infrastructure, no water, no street lights, no drainage system, no proper transport network. Our cities’ crumbling infrastructure can be attributed to lack of local authority funding but as a city dweller, I feel the main culprit is local authority negligence.

Your Excellency, nearly 88 000km of road network in Zimbabwe is structurally-deficient, and millions of Zimbabweans travel each day on these potholed, unmarked roads.

Most of the country’s roads are pothole-riddled due to neglect

This prompted the government to declare all roads a state of national disaster on February 9, 2021.

Your Excellency, it is important to rebuild the city’s infrastructure to end the paralysis that seems to be endemic in cities whose residents are faced with the challenge of travelling and living in major cities and towns that are not habitable.

The new dispensation has made a lot of progress on road rehabilitation, through the emergency road rehabilitation programme and made provision of water a top priority.

It is not only the government’s responsibility to make our cities and towns modern, city dwellers should reconsider their daily activities and get more involved in improving the overall image of the places they stay in.

Your Excellency, all major cities or towns, the world over, go through cycles, and this is more pronounced in inner-city areas.  They go through times of great development and periods of neglect.

A typical example is Mbare in Harare, it was the place to be in the 1960s but by the 1980s it was the area to avoid as it was associated with rundown accommodation and the absence of service delivery.

It is now time for regeneration programmes for our cities and towns. Many inner-city areas worldwide are on rejuvenation programmes. This is due to private-public partnerships that have brought in smart investors and developers after these inner-city areas had become home to street kids.

As part of the national rejuvenation programme, your government has commendably embarked on a $140 million regeneration programme for the country’s oldest urban settlements, with Mbare, Makokoba and Sakubva townships set to benefit. The regeneration programme will include the repurposing of existing buildings, or knocking down and starting from scratch where a building is beyond redemption.  Under this rejuvenation programme, there is a need to promote an eco-friendly environment, and change our laws so that they follow the general rules of modern development.

Your Excellency, a modern city should have basic systems that undergird the economy.

Examples of  basic  infrastructure for a modern city or town include transportation facilities, road networks, telecommunications networks, and water supplies.

Your Excellency, our cities and towns should advance in the use of modern technologies including information communication and technology, robotics, science and materials development that result in a large number of cost-effective and more durable materials, along with improved methods for infrastructural development and construction times.

As an example, many cities already factor in landscape design into their plans for dealing with run-off water, while other cities that are laying new roads utilise pavement materials designed to allow rainwater to reach the ground beneath while also reducing overhead temperatures.

The development of promising engineering solutions will be some of the steps towards creating a strong, better and long-lasting infrastructure.

Your Excellency, political hurdles, archaic city by-laws and lack of funding for a number of projects are some of the stumbling blocks that need to be overcome.

National policies must be enacted in order to improve construction and maintenance as well as encourage energy efficiency. Policies must also address population growth and rising energy use and costs.

New investments to further the growth of clean energy and energy-efficient industries are an important step to help develop plans and acquire funding for rebuilding of infrastructure.

This is because the growth of such industries will in turn boost economic growth and, subsequently, job creation.

Moving forward, a decent amount of spending on hiring workers to rebuild the infrastructure results in increased consumer spending and further economic activity, thereby continuing the accumulation of funds needed to continually invest in infrastructure. A strong infrastructure also serves to boost productivity.

Therefore, it is critical that the country’s infrastructure remains a topic of concern, not just for the safety of the public but also for the good of the nation and its economy.

Zimbabwe Defence Industry was the leader in innovative education, research and development.

There is a need to revive this institution and  incorporate the private sector in order to encourage corporate participation in the rejuvenation and regeneration of cities and towns.

Zimbabwe is ours and as we live in these cities and towns, as citizens of the country, it is our duty to make them better places to live in.

  • Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi is an engineer and current chairman of the Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology Division (ZICT), a division of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE)