BULAWAYO ROADS SPRUCED UP AHEAD OF MUGABE VISIT | Despite pleading bankruptcy each time residents of the second largest city demand improved service delivery, money has been found to impress President Robert Mugabe who will soon be visiting the “City of Kings”.
The city has become a hive of activity with council working round the clock to fix roads, which are in a deplorable state due to poor funding. It is, however, becoming standard practice for local authorities to fix roads and spruce up the environs ahead of Mugabe’s visits.
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, recently slammed local authorities over the habit, arguing it was retrogressive. The Zanu PF leader has been to eight of the country’s 10 provinces since June, addressing youths through what has been dubbed “youth interface meetings”.
He is set to visit Bulawayo soon as Harare and the second city are the remaining two provinces expected to host the hugely-attended rallies. Bulawayo’s rally will be held at White City Stadium.
Though the date for the rally is yet to be set, city fathers have since declared the event a State function, with the local authority going out of its way to spruce up the city.
For the past month, council workers have been working round the clock, resurfacing roads leading to the venue, as well as to the Nkulumane Post Office where a community information centre is set to be commissioned by Mugabe.
Director of engineering services Smeli Dube said: “That is a blessing, considering that the president’s visit is for a day but the development made in the city will remain forever.”
“Road maintenance and resealing was a challenge as it was affected by foreign currency shortages. Tar was one of the foreign inputs that needed government support to purchase it,” Dube added.
The praise for Mugabe’s visit went a notch higher, with town clerk Christopher Dube describing the event as a State function.
“The president’s visit is a State function and the projects associated are special projects given the urgency they deserve,” he said, adding that both “council and the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration were involved but it would be appreciated that the development done remains as asset for the residents of Bulawayo.”
Mugabe has been criticised by political parties and civic society for pumping funds into local authorities for roads rehabilitation only during his visits.
So far, nine cities and towns have hugely benefited from his youth interface rallies, notwithstanding the fact that only roads leading to the venues usually get the upgrading.
The city fathers even granted Zanu PF the green light to host the event free of charge, with councillors saying it was of “national significance”.
According to the latest council minutes, the matter came under spotlight after councillor Gideon Mangena acknowledged with appreciation the urgent road repairs, maintenance and resealing currently being carried out in the city ahead of Mugabe’s visit.
He, however, inquired about the source of funds for the sudden speedy roads rehabilitation, considering that before the expected visit, the roads were not repaired due lack of resources.
Mangena said the impending visit brought development to Nkulumane.He was backed by councillor Norman Hlabani, who also welcomed the development.
“The president’s visit is an advantage . . . because of economic challenges, council is not able to service and maintain roads and pre-sale stands,” Hlabani said.