Candid Comment: Zim’s Cyber City: Welcome to real life Fantasyland

Unemployment is estimated at around 90% while the majority of its working population is working in the informal sector.

IT is not every day that we get to experience living in Utopia, or paradise as envisioned by those with crazy enough imaginations and money to make dreams and fantasies actually happen.

Zimbabwe is one of the most unequal societies in the world, and such is the discrepancy between its rich and the poor.

Unemployment is estimated at around 90% while the majority of its working population is working in the informal sector.

A World Bank’s economic and social update report two years ago noted that about half of Zimbabwe’s population fell into extreme poverty between 2011 and 2020, a trend that continued following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and the country experienced shutdowns for periods into 2022.

The number of Zimbabweans defined as extremley poor —  living on less than US$1 a day is estimated at over six million as industry has struggled to recover jobs and income that were lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Into this economy and scenario comes this opulent neighbourhood: Lavish villas, luxury townhouses, high-tech offices, lush and landscaped gardens, topped by a 15-storey commercial tower.

The project will also have a high-end retail arcade, all within a high-security gated community with its own health clubs among other facilities.

Called the Cyber City, this envisaged high-tech suburb, which would anchor the new capital of the southern African country seems like a dystopian future of a society impervious to reason or shame.

When he launched the project in July last year, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said: "This Cyber City is to be a key feature that will bring added value to our new city here. The development around the year for the smart city on 15 500 acres will be the smartest city in our region."

The city is a pet project and a dream of Shaji Ul Mulk, a Dubai-based billionaire, who has said he was putting US$50 million of his own money into the project.

This week, developers started selling villas that will be built in the new suburb. According to reports, 50 luxury villas are now available for pre-selling under the first phase.

It is a project specifically being developed for the country’s elite and those foreigners who may want to enjoy the tranquil surroundings promised by ul Mulk.

“We've been trying to bring the Dubai standard of living to this particular development. The project will have high-end villas, we call them Zim Hills, surrounding water bodies. We will have a very tall tower with the shopping centre,” ul Mulk said at the launch.

While many of its citizens are struggling to put food on the table, or to stretch the poorly Zimdollar as far as possible, the rich are ready to leave their wretched of the earth and enter Fantasyland for real.

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