Bulawayo’s Robert Mugabe Way is getting a facelift ahead of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), but opposition parties and activists are peeved at what they see as a window-dressing exercise to mask the poor state of the roads in the city when President Robert Mugabe visits the city for the annual showcase.
BY SILAS NKALA
Robert Mugabe Way leads directly to ZITF grounds and this is the road the President and his guests will use mostly during the showcase, but opposition activists claim the road upgrade will give Mugabe a false notion of the state of the roads and development in the city.
Since last month, council engineers have been working flat out to rehabilitate Robert Mugabe Way, while other roads, particularly those leading to residential areas, remain in a sorry state.
Mugabe is expected in Bulawayo for the ZITF, which will run between April 25 and 29.
“We have people who have made it a routine and custom to lie to the powers-that-be. The council is following suit and there is no difference between the MDC-T councillors running Bulawayo and the Zanu PF government running the country led by Mugabe,” Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa said.
“Mugabe is helping feed the deception to the international community that roads and the general infrastructure are working when these are beyond repair. Concentrating on Mugabe’s entrance to the Trade Fair grounds is short-changing those who elect councillors into office.”
People’s Democratic Party’s Bulawayo provincial organiser, Bekithemba Nyathi said the cosmetic outlook painted by the council on the state of the city’s roads would not fool Zimbabweans.
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“Mugabe is the main actor in this whole drama. Wasting money on the road he will use is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Mthwakazi Republic Party spokesperson, Mbonisi Gumbo said council was portraying Mugabe as more superior than other citizens.
“BCC should not hide the misery and poverty which Mugabe has brought to Bulawayo citizens by only repairing Robert Mugabe Way,” he said.
“Their priority should be Bulawayo residents and not Mugabe.”
Pressure group, #This Constitution leader, Abigale Mupambi said it was wrong for council to hide the poor state of the roads from Mugabe.
Former Bulawayo deputy mayor, Amen Mpofu, chipped in, saying: “Each year the President comes to the Trade Fair, people start seeing some unusual activities along Airport Road and Robert Mugabe Way. The President must feel the potholes in order for him to understand better how dire the situation is.”
But MDC-T Bulawayo acting spokesperson, Felix Magalela Sibanda defended the council, saying there was nothing amiss in sprucing up the Robert Mugabe Way, as the road would be used by many international visitors expected at the trade fair.
“It is a recognised tradition to clean the environment for visitors. There is nothing amiss in sprucing up of public amenities and roads for the trade fair visitors,” he said.
“As a party of excellence, we encourage city fathers and BCC staff to be friendly and welcoming to would-be visitors, be they ordinary citizens or high-powered delegations led by President Mugabe or any other authority.”
Recently, the local authority said it plans to have completed overlaying its road network by November 2017 after receiving money from the Zimbabwe National Road Management Authority (Zinara).
The city said it requires a supplementary budget of $3,5 million for road rehabilitation due to damage caused by this year’s incessant rains.
Mayor, Martin Moyo defended the move, saying the money used to rehabilitate the road had been provided by Zinara under strict instructions that it should service Robert Mugabe Way.
“We are not aiming at pleasing the President. But, in a sense, there is nothing wrong in showing respect to the President,” he said.
“In fact, we are attending to all roads in the city and if you go to Cowdray Park, you will notice that something is being done. However, money is the only challenge we have.”
“In the case of Robert Mugabe Way, you will realise that the allocation came from Zinara and there is an instruction that ‘do that road’ and this becomes difficult for one to ignore the instruction.”
This could vindicate the activists and opposition political players, who are convinced that some roads are more equal than others.