Although the fuel company, Mashwede Diesel Services, has already spent up to US$300 000 buying equipment needed for the project, the development now hangs in the balance as the militia group has told workers to stop work, beating all those who resist.
The youths are allegedly being sponsored by Zanu PF officials who are determined to control the suburb ahead of elections this year or next year.
Zanu PF Harare province youth chairman, Jim Kunaka, last week vowed that he would mobilise youths in the coming weeks to halt the construction project as the local residents were not consulted.
Zanu PF shadow MP for Mbare and politburo member Tendai Savanhu, who denied sponsoring the youths, said that residents were against the project because the city council flouted procedures.
“The residents of Mbare intended to use that space of land to set up flea market stalls, so they felt short-changed about the whole process,” said Savanhu.
“The city council flouted procedure by failing to advertise the proposed activity where residents would be given at least 14 days to respond. Furthermore, residents were not notified about the proposed structure.”
However, violence continued last week with members of Chipangano disturbing construction progress at the site. The youths have reportedly been attacking the construction workers regularly, forcing them to flee and only resume work when the coast is clear.
Across the road, the group has been parcelling out stalls to Zanu PF supporters.
Efforts to get a comment from Harare City Council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi were fruitless last week.
This is not the first time that youths in Mbare have blocked development in the suburb. Last year, the Chipangano disrupted a US$5 million housing scheme under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that would have resulted in houses being built for the poor in Mbare.
The youth group reportedly demanded a 51% share of the houses, ostensibly under the contentious indigenisation policy.
Consequently, the project was moved to Dzivarasekwa, another high density suburb, as council said it risked losing out if it gave in to the group’s demands.
Kunaka last week vowed to stop the project.
“Our concerns as residents of Mbare centres on what benefits this project will bring to us. He (Mashwede) wants to take our land, exploit our resources then leave,” he said.
Kunaka said the stance that the residents have taken had nothing to do with politics but just a bold method of expressing their disgruntlement with the project.
‘Project offered hope for employment creation in Mbare’
The company’s managing director Alex Mashamhanda said the project had potential to create employment opportunities for young people in Mbare while providing fuel supply and food services in the vicinity.
“The whole project requires up to US$1,2 million to complete and the company is prepared to venture into additional capital expenditure should the need to set up more structures arise,” said Mashamhanda.
He said the project should be completed in a few months’ time if disturbances were halted.
“As business, our objective is to provide services that are needed in Mbare, which will ultimately benefit the community in a mutually beneficial manner,” he said.