Controversy that has simmered up over the building of a wedding venue and the subsequent development of Valley Road in Greendale is the result of poor communication and coordination by city council. Residents have been left guessing and feeling disconnected from events in their ward, while the business owners feel under attack.
Valley Road runs between Cecil Drive and Metcalfe Road. It has been on the map of Harare for many years but was never built. Now development is being carried out by the owners of the Zimbali venue, which hosts weddings and other functions. Talking to Harare News, management outlined their intentions to fully pave the public road with a view to ensuring the safety and comfort of their guests.
“This is not a new road, it has always been there on the map,” says Zimbali owner and manageress, Martha Tapfuma. “Somebody grabbed the money that was meant for this road and it was never developed. Council has neglected it. They should be made to pay for the crimes that were committed in the overgrown bushes of this road,” she said, in reference to four murders she said took place in the area. Harare News was unable to confirm this with the ZRP. The councillor and a nearby resident also said that they hadn’t heard about any murders.
One vendor did confirm that there had been some crime, though certainly no murders. “We do need that road. Leander Road is the next one over, but it’s too far,” he said. Air time vendor Taffie also implored the developers to finish the job, since the road is currently in a deplorable state after rain stopped play some time in December.
Asked whether the road was in compliance with Environmental Managemet Agency regulations, specifically the carrying out of an Environmental Impact Assessment, Tapfuma was adamant that all her ducks were in a row. She says that any word to the contrary is an act of hostility from corrupt officials or residents whom she feels have singled her out because of her race.
“EMA has been here, we have cleared it with EMA. Same for council. We don’t have problems with any authorities. I made sure that my paperwork was in order. If anybody wanted a bribe, I told them that I don’t do that. If anybody is angry because I didn’t pay them a bribe, I will deal with them,” she said, visibly emotional.
EMA’s Environmental Impact Assessment Department were unavailable to comment as Harare News went to press. Calls to Town House also proved fruitless, though councillor for the area, Ward 9’s Stewart Mutizwa, had lots to say – a turnaround since November when he claimed ignorance of who was building the road or why.
“I approved the events venue, but nothing came to me about the road,” said Mutizwa, who seemed offended by the disregard that Zimbali ownership showed for him. Unfortunately, even by his own account he has made little effort to engage with them himself.
Mutizwa described the development of the road as having Council’s blessing, but because it is about ten meters off the mapped area it has blocked the stream, and is thus an issue. “They have the correct papers and road building can continue,” said Mutizwa, “but they must follow the surveyed area. If they had come to me, I would have advised them on what needed to be done.”
Mutizwa describes himself as having “a very open door policy,” but it seems this has not been enough to win the confidence of business owners and residents in the area. Issues include water provision, illegal water dealers, and dry boreholes; rubbish removal; and of course, Zimbali, who also operate a water business. “We own ten hectares of land and our hydrological surveys have shown that our extractions are not impacting our neighbours. In addition, we are fully licensed and are being monitored by the Upper Manyame Sub Catchment Council,” said Tapfuma who flashed around UMSCC paperwork when asked to discuss this aspect.
One resident said that she had never been informed of anything that was taking place at Zimbali, and that council communication on issues in the neighbourhood was completely dire: “There might have been one council meeting last year, but there is certainly nothing regular like there is in Ward 8.”
Tapfuma joked about the air of rumour that surrounds her: “People think I’m Chinese, Russian, a diamond dealer, or even the First Lady,” she said, “but I’m none of these. I have no political power. I am a Zimbabwean who is trying to prosper and bring development to this area.”