BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A legal showdown is looming between the Bulawayo City Council and the Affirmative Action Group (AAG), which is pushing for cancellation of the Egodini mall construction tender awarded to a South African firm citing lack of progress in the past eight years.
South African civil engineering firm Terracotta Trading (Private) Limited, won the tender to upgrade the former Basch Street Terminus into a regional public transport hub in 2012 ahead of other competing companies.
The Egodini mall project is on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis, which would come at no cost to council and is expected to include a transport hub located on the Basch Street ground level, retail sections and parking bays upon completion.
As part of the redesign of the terminus to handle an estimated three million passengers per month, council will expand existing roads into the site and create dedicated pedestrian routes to increase traffic access.
However, several years down the line, only test holes drilled by geo-technical and hydrological teams were in place until January to October 2019 when earthworks were done.
No major works were done since then with the contractor claiming council was dragging its feet in granting a development permit to allow the construction works to continue.
Council only issued the development permit to Terracotta in October 2020.
A development permit allows a property owner to construct, renovate or make an addition to a structure on a property located within a Development Permit Area.
A development permit must be applied for and issued, prior to applying for a building permit.
AAG Matabeleland CEO Denzel Sita, however, said the black empowerment lobby group could not wait any longer as it threatened court action to force the cancellation of the Egodini mall deal.
“We demand the council management and their partners to come out clean on what is really happening. The delays cannot continue and we feel it’s either (council) advertises the agreed implementation timeframes that reflect progress or the deal is cancelled,” Sita said.
“We do appreciate the difficulty of raising capital in the current environment, but eight years has been too much.
“We will be left with no option, but to approach the courts to rectify the problem. The council’s patience smacks of underhand dealings between some officials of Terracotta and council as alleged at the inception of the project.”
Bulawayo town clerk Christopher Dube, however, accused AAG of raising crosshairs as he argued construction of the mall was back on track.
“They are raising alarm, but as far as we know as council, construction has resumed and the first phase will be complete in August (2021) as there is a programme of work in action,” Dube claimed in a telephone interview.
The first phase of the project will include the construction of 1 100 informal traders’ stalls, a 100-bay taxi rank, security wall, security tower, motor retail, taxi associations offices, public ablutions and a service lane. The second phase includes the construction of the bus terminus building, fast-food shops and the grocery anchor.
The South African contractor said the civil engineering firm cannot be blamed for delays in the construction project.
“We lost a number of years due to administrative blunders. For example, we submitted our proposal in 2012 and the council took about a year to evaluate the tender,” said Terracotta director Thulani Moyo in a Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association radio programme last Saturday.
“We thought the BCC owned all the land adjacent to Egodini, which was not the case and negotiations had to be done. We started earthworks in 2019, but we stopped in November.
“We could not proceed with other works because we did not have development permit which we only got late last year after we volunteered to pay the consultancy fees to help consolidate the stands into one stand with the surveyor-general’s office, something which according to the contract was meant to be handled by the local authority. This was just our way of showing how committed we are in commencing this project.”