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Zim’s new city will be built on land owned by ZSE-listed firm



THE land on which Zimbabwe’s new US$140 million parliament and the planned US$60 billion ultra-modern Cyber City in Mt Hampden on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, are situated is owned by leading agro-based conglomerate CFI Holdings Limited, listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).


The vast piece of land — measuring 800 hectares — is located between Old Mazowe Road (now Mao Zedong Road) and Bindura Road, from the foot of the hill where parliament is built, sprawling northwards and in a north-easterly direction.

 The state-of-the-art mixed-use hi-tech park cybercity will be built on that CFI space. The Chinese-built Parliament Building is located on a 50 000-square metres piece of land in Mt Mount Hampden, which is in Mashonaland West Province in terms of administrative boundaries, about 25 kilometres northeast of Harare — largest city in the country with over two million people.

Given that land in that area cost US$15 per square metre and the 800 hectares owned by CFI (8 000 000 square metres), this means government has to pay the ZSE-listed company US$120 million for it.

The Land Acquisition Act empowers government to acquire land for development purposes, but it is obliged to pay fair compensation. As a result, government needs to resolve the issue before it proceeds with its project to comply with the law.

CFI is a leading agricultural-based industrial holding company primarily involved in manufacturing and selling fresh produce, as well as manufacturing stock-feed, property management and letting.

Through subsidiaries and joint ventures, it manages wholesale and retail outlets, offers products and services for animal health, operates maize and wheat mills, and is involved in poultry farming and associated products. It also manages a separate entity offering services for development and management of real estate in.

STALAP Investments, an investment vehicle owned by Zimre Holdings, is now the largest shareholder in CFI after increasing its stake to over 40%.

Its retail outlets include Farm & City and Vetco Animal Health; its specialised divisions include Victoria Foods, Saturday Retreat Estate, Reston Developers and Maitlands Zimbabwe Limited. Poultry is marketed and distributed through Agrifoods, Agrimix, Hubbard Zimbabwe, Glenara Estates, Crest Breeders International and Suncrest Chickens.

 The new Cyber City project is being spearheaded with an investment from Dubai-based businessman Shaji Ul Mulk, who has pledged to inject US$500 million. The total investment will cumulatively reach US$60 billion — more than twice Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product.

This has raised a storm among the public who are demanding that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government fix the decaying capital, which used to be one of the wealthiest and cleanest cities in the region.

After destroying Harare, now characterised by potholed roads, dilapidated buildings and garbage, government is running away from the rot to Mt Hampden, where the new city is to be built around parliament, initially supposed to be constructed at the Kopje area on the southern end of the capital.

The imposing six-storey Parliament Building, perched on Mt Hampden, was financed through a US$100 million grant from the Chinese government. It is the first project to be completed in the envisaged new city.

 The massive structure has two conference centres, each with a capacity to accommodate 350 people. It also has a banquet hall which can accommodate 1 000 people, offices for parliamentary officers and several boardrooms for parliamentary committee sessions.

 With the new parliament in place, focus has shifted to the Cyber City, which Mulk says will ultimately cost US$60 billion and resemble Dubai. The development offers investors a five-year holiday from paying company tax, a lower income tax burden for workers and expedited immigration permits for foreign staff, according to the brochure that contains quotes from and photographs of Mnangagwa.

At least 12% of 250 luxury villas to be built in an initial stage have already been bought in advance, according to Ul Mulk. However, it has emerged part of the land that the Cyber City will be built on actually belongs to CFI.

Other than parliament, government wants the headquarters of the Reserve Bank, top courts, mineral auction centres, a stock exchange, a presidential palace and luxury villas to be part of the Cyber City.

A shopping mall, with high-end shops and entertainment centres, are envisaged in the new city central business district (CBD). The residential part of the city will consist of a low-density suburb, penthouses and apartments, cluster and garden flats, hotels, Parliament Village and golf estates. On the outskirts of the city will be industrial areas and land reserved for agro-business.

 However, there are doubts over the project which experts say appears like a pipe dream or castle in the air.

 Mulk International, the United Arab Emirates-based company roped in by Mnangagwa to build a Cyber City in Harare, secretly bought Nigeria’s National Theatre for US$40 million in 2014 in a corrupt deal, raising anger in the West African country, checks by The NewsHawks revealed.

The corrupt deal in Nigeria cast doubt over the real intentions and transparency of the Mulk-led conglomerate in its current Harare project, where Mnangagwa officiated during the ground-breaking in August last year.

Mulk and its joint venture partners own and manage a group of 20 companies with a sector focus on construction and fit-out manufacturing, as well as diversified business interests in trading, commodities, real estate and energy, spread across 48 countries.

If developed, the Zimbabwe Cyber City is expected to decongest Harare, whose infrastructure has been stretched to the maximum by a ballooning population and extended years of neglect. Decaying infrastructure and Harare City Council’s failure to provide adequate social service delivery, including collecting garbage, has seen large parts of the city becoming an eyesore.

Harare, once known as the Sunshine City, owing to its cleanliness and orderliness, was a model regional city in the 1980s and 1990s, with its well-lit tree-lined roads, well-maintained pavements, flowers and manicured lawns, and vegetation in the parks in and around the CBD. Potholes, rubbish heaps and uncovered trenches have become part and parcel of the Harare’s overcrowded CBD, which has seen large departmental stores and huge offices being closed.

Prominent shops have largely been replaced by flea markets, tuckshops and informal traders. The city has become a haven for vendors, selling an assortment of goods from fruits and vegetables on pavements, to second-hand clothes and foodstuffs, sometimes in cars.

 Commuter omnibuses and unregulated transport operators wreak havoc on Harare’s roads, contributing to congestion, particularly when it rains, and accidents.

 As a result, Harare is now symbolised and reflects Zimbabwe’s chronic poor leadership, mismanagement and bad governance.

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