Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are a powerful, under-utilized tool for solving problems in our city. Most of us grumble about council lack of service delivery, the degradation of our infrastructure, and a whole host of other issues both big and small, yet few of us are prepared to put in our own time and money to improve the city outside of our walls.
Karen Mutasa of the Skin Spa Group (encompassing The Skin Spa, Camelot International Health and Skincare Education and Organikks Restaurant) is a great example of what PPPs can achieve. Bubbling over with energy and enthusiasm, Mutasa is not the kind of person to take no for an answer.
Mutasa and the Skin Spa Group in partnership with City of Harare (CoH) are responsible for the repair of over 24 roads last year, some of them twice or even three times over. Thanks to her efforts, roads in Newlands, Greendale, Highlands, Mount Pleasant, Glen Lorne, Kambanji and other suburbs have been repaired. Although she has received some support and sponsorship from both individuals and corporates, most of the road work has been paid for by The Skin Spa Group. This is an extraordinary achievement, though none of this would have happened without Karen’s drive and determination.
For Mutasa, it all started in 2015 with a lack of council water at her home in Glen Lorne. She hadn’t had council water for years and buying water had become expensive and tiresome. Taking matters into her own hands, Mutasa acquired a truck and water bowser and began transporting her own water from one property with a borehole to the other with no water. In the process, the heavy truck damaged the driveway and the potholes in the road outside her home were driving her and her husband crazy. After initial repairs were carried out at her own expense, Karen realized that there was a glaring need for someone to do something about the appalling state of all our roads.
Mutasa approached the CoH Department of Works through Engineer Pfukwa and the then mayor of Harare, Muchadeyi Masunda, to find out how she could go about organising road repairs in a partnership with the city that would be mutually beneficial. CoH’s resources are limited but Mutasa, who has a sense of both corporate and personal responsibility, knew she could assist.
First she was required to register with the city, including paperwork to get her driver permission to collect tar from council. It was also a requirement that a supervisor from CoH was on hand to give advice, oversee the labour force to make sure they were doing a good job, and account for where the tar was used. Mutasa was eventually granted a licence for a three-month period.
Ever since, Mutasa and her trucks have been repairing Harare’s roads wherever they can. Residents can request that their road be fixed, but those who are prepared to make a contribution go to the top of the list. Mutasa is a great example of how one person’s passion and commitment can help improve our city.
In February of this year alone, Mutasa’s truck was in use for a total of 18 days. And it’s not only the motorists and residents that benefit, the project helps to create jobs too. Karen employs the guys that you see so often nowadays – the ones fixing the roads with stones and bricks whom she also supplies with a decent lunch while they are working. We should all take a leaf out of her book. If you see something in your neighbourhood that needs attention, find out how you can help to get it done.
You can contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for your road to be fixed, to make a contribution or to seek advice about acquiring a licence to repair roads from CoH.
Image: Council workers and informal potholes repairers fixing potholes with support from resident and businesswoman, Karen Mutasa