With a population of over two million, Harare experiences large volumes of traffic roaming its streets each day. Motorists are often at loggerheads trying to grab the next parking spot, be it in the CBD or shopping malls around the city.
On weekends, traffic is concentrated around sporting or music events, and even church gatherings, creating a congestion of people and cars. For drivers, this translates to a search for parking, a nightmare that can take an hour, depending on the magnitude of the event.
Entertainment, be it sport or live music shows, attract the largest volume of traffic. For example, when Nigerian star Davido performed at Belgravia Sports Club in August, motorists spent well over an hour trying to park.
Revellers ended up parking as far as one and a half kilometres away, finishing the rest of the journey on foot. In the end, some ended up parking on road verges, while others parked on the verges of peoples’ homes destroying their lawn. A few parking attendants and security were actively assisting drivers to park but they were stationed only a few metres from the entrance. Vehicles forced to park far from the venue were not secure and in danger from thieves.
“Promoters should consider the availability of secure parking spaces whenever they host big gigs,” said popular musician and regular show-goer Mono Mukundu. “At one show, I left my car far from the venue and when I finally got back to it after the show, the rear windscreen was broken and some of my belongings missing.”
Entertainment reporter Tatenda Dzotizirepi who writes for The Parade shares the same sentiments. “Sometimes I miss parts of the show I want to cover because I am searching for safer parking closer to the venue.” He said public transport is not an option given the reported cases of robberies being carried out by taxi drivers and kombis at night.
Promoters have been blamed for poor planning which does not adequately address this issue while they profit hugely from music shows. “Yes, we always wish we can do more for the comfort of our clients, but the issue of parking is not something that we can address on our own,” said promoter Mike Bere. “Harare has expanded, and because of cheaper ex-Japanese cars, many more people have cars – more than those anticipated when most of the venues were designed. So we need venue owners and local government to also come in to help us figure out how we can expand parking space to suit the growing need.”
For sporting events, especially when big local teams or the national team is playing, the ZRP traffic department has to be called in to make the roads passable for vehicles driving through. As for vehicles that need parking, they are left to struggle to find a suitable space on their own.
Harare could learn from South Korea’s capital, Seoul which has dealt with its’ parking problems by automatically springing up a yellow balloon in each empty parking space so that it is easy for drivers to spot empty spaces from afar. The city used to have some of the highest fuel consumption in the world as a drivers wandered for a full half kilometer every day to find a space. Now drivers can easily spot the bright balloons that identify empty spots.
We could also replicate Nairobi which constructed a 17-story parking space in its CBD creating 3,000 spaces. Underground parking at sports and entertainment venues should also be considered given that the areas surrounding most places have already been developed. With any future Harare developments, adequate parking should be a priority.