Residents have expressed concern that many shopping centres in the southern part of the city have lost their lustre, and are now shadows of their former selves. Consumers point to poor management of waste, deteriorating water and sewer pipes, damaged tar surfaces, and unkempt grass.
Harare News visited Kuwadzana 4 Shopping Centre, where the general appearance of the shopping hub was a prime example of the above mentioned problems. In addition to the poor condition of the outward surroundings, most of the buildings seemed urgently in need of a fresh coat of paint.
Shoppers who spoke to Harare News said that the toilets were a source of worry, with a standard of hygiene that left a lot to be desired. “The public toilets are filthy, or locked despite the fact that this is a busy area,” said a shopper who gave her name as Fungai.
She said the centre used to offer a great shopping experience which was a marvel for shoppers, but that these glory days are now in the past.
Another shopper, Jairos Phiri, said it is pathetic that business operators at the centre and the City Council sit back and watch standards falling right under their noses. “We are being driven by the situation to do our shopping in other areas where there is enough and secure parking,” he said.
He added that council should do something about the issue of cleanliness, as well as driving away illegal vendors, who apart from illegally crowding the centre, also take their customers.
Ward Councillor Urayayi Mangwiro admitted the falling standards at the shopping centre, adding that the issue has further been worsened by the presence of vendors, who have occupied the car park. He promised that council is committed to finding a solution to the issue.
On the matter of painting and building maintenance, he said since most of them are privately owned, it is the duty of the shop owners to make sure that they are taken care of. “At Kuwadzana 4 shops there are only a few buildings owned by council like the toilets and the bar. The problem is that the visits by those who clean the toilets are not consistent.”
He added, “I will use the 10% retention funds to improve the services in my ward to make sure that these toilets also get painted, as well as push for their timely cleaning always.”
The above scenario was replicated to varying degrees across the city. Current neglected and unkempt shopping centres in Harare include: the Mandara shops, Chans shops in Hatfield, Athlone shops in Greendale, as well as shopping centres in Kambuzuma. Most residents interviewed in these areas expressed dismay over the state of the affairs. The rundown Hatfield and Chadcombe shopping centres both fall under Ward 22. Harare News attempted to get a comment from the ward councillor Theresa Manase, but her phone was not reachable.
On the other side of town, Marimba shops in Belvedere, Sam Levy’s Village, Braeside shops, Westgate shopping centre and Kensington shops are secure, clean, well-maintained environments, with refuse bins in place to help encourage cleanliness. This stark contrast can largely be attributed to the shop owners in these areas being well-organized, valuing their operating environments, investing their own money and strictly following the bylaws.
When asked about what businesses are doing to help keep shopping centres looking presentable, one shop owner at Chans shopping centre told Harare News that it was council’s duty to ensure cleanliness and that they cannot afford extra expenses like paying a private cleaner because business is low.
Image: Athlone shopping centre, one of Harare’s shopping centres suffering from neglect
Image credit: Dennis Madyira