After years of bickering, the $60 million Egodini terminus upgrade project kicks off this week, a development analysts say will attract more investment into Bulawayo and boost economic activity through job creation.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
In 2015, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) awarded a South African civil engineering firm, Terracotta, a contract to develop a transport hub and shopping mall at Basch Street Terminus, popularly known as Egodini.
The project, set to kick-start on Thursday, is on a build, operate and transfer basis and will come at no cost to council, officials say. Bulawayo will ultimately own it once Terracotta has recouped its investment.
The refurbishment is expected to see the terminus handling at least three million travellers per month, according to BCC.
As part of the redesign of the terminus area, BCC will expand existing roads into the site and create dedicated pedestrian routes to increase traffic access.
The site will include a transport hub located on the Basch Street ground level, retail sections and parking bays.
Recently, BCC indicated it had started the process of relocating commuter and vendor operators from Egodini terminus, paving way for its upgrading starting this week.
BCC has already handed over the site to the South African contractor.
Bulawayo business community and analysts told Standardbusiness last week that the mall will change the face of Bulawayo as a city, thereby attracting massive investment.
“The Egodini mall project is likely to provide an important market place for businesses, especially those in the service and retail sectors to interact with customers in one convenient space,” Association for Business in Zimbabwe (Abuz) CEO Victor Nyoni said.
“This will obviously boost and increase economic activity in the city.
Abuz therefore views this project as an opportunity to improve profitability and growth of businesses.”
According to Terracotta, 1 000 jobs will be created in the city.
“With such purchasing capability improvement, businesses in Bulawayo will benefit as more and more people are able to partake in buying services and goods.
The projects will make available commercial space likely to bring about more investment in the city.
This will certainly grow the Bulawayo economy,” Nyoni said.
He said they also expect the transport industry to improve because of convenience being created by the mall.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Bulawayo branch chairman Golden Muoni said a lot of downstream industries were going to benefit from the project, especially those in construction and catering sector.
“A lot of people are going to benefit because of the amount of investment that is coming and as Bulawayo we are really (happy) with this kind of investment, which will change the livelihoods of the people of Bulawayo.
It will take us a long way.
All in all, what we want is to change the face of Bulawayo, to bring back the former glory of Matabeleland and Bulawayo at large,” Muoni said.
A Bulawayo-based economic analyst, Reginald Shoko, said the project would bring a lot of positive spinoffs for Bulawayo through employment creation.
“Skills utilisation if the contractor implements his promises of using local skills and it will create a better operating environment for entrepreneurs across the economic spectrum,” he said.
Shoko, however, said the talk of $60 million for such a project was overvaluation, something deliberately done by the contractor to push for more years in the build, operate and transfer arrangement.
“Due to the desperation of investments such pertinent issues were overlooked.
That money can build another town and development matrix.
Would have favoured that such investment be in new location to drive development, but alas,” he said.
Retailers’ Association of Bulawayo secretary-general Simba Phiri said it was an executive project and had nothing to do with the retailers, vendors as well as local community.
“The business community in Bulawayo is not going to benefit from that project,” Phiri said, adding the contractor should have involved locals in the project.
The project, set to finally kick-off this week, has had many false starts due to political squabbles which rocked it after the signing of the agreement in 2015.
The squabbles involved Zanu-PF officials such as former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and former Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister Eunice Nomthandazo Moyo against MDC-T-run council officials.
This followed allegations that some senior council officials, particularly deputy mayor Gift Banda, were linked to the South African civil engineering firm Terracotta Private Limited, which won the tender, allegations Banda has refuted.