Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
Harare has previously been known as a place of unmatched sunshine and warmth.
The warmth goes beyond temperatures as some of it emanates from the glowing smiles of the people it houses.
So beautiful is the city, it is accused of not sleeping as it guards its beauty jealously in the depths of the night.
Lately, it has been losing its glow maybe age is bringing its wrinkles.
Just 39 years after its escape from the claws of colonialism, the city is fast losing its safety tag.
Violent crimes are on the rise, especially at night.
Tales told from the city are competing with those we grew up hearing from those who frequented Johannesburg (better known to locals as Jubheki).
Musician Tinashe Gonzara (T Gonzi) is lucky to be alive after he was attacked by men in a cab he had hired to ferry him home from the studio.
The attack on him was grave, he had to undergo emergency surgery to survive. What is worrying is the frequency of muggings and their violent nature.
Even the writer has had two close encounters with knife-wielding ruffians in the capital.
There are now places people are encouraged to avoid even as early as 6pm.
Hotspots like Harare Gardens, downtown Charter Road and Simon Muzenda Street rank have become notorious for muggings and robberies.
Hoodlums masquerading as touts next to Roadport attack travellers during the day in cahoots with bus pirates. Travellers to Mutare and beyond suffer at the hands of the touts who even grab bags and attack the elderly. Nothing changes!
The city has ceased to be safe for women too.
A few months ago women marched across the Central Business District demanding treatment with dignity. Such scenes should have been a cue for introspection, but it appears very little has changed.
Reports from female pedestrians in Harare still show that the catcalling and verbal abuse has not relented.
It is a sign of a city that has lost its humane texture.
Harare is the face of the country and people generalise their perception of the country based on what they experience in their capital. There is a need for a shift in attitude from a leadership and citizenry standpoint.
Efforts have been made to restore the glow, although results are yet to show.
In February this year, City of Harare recruited 741 municipal police officers mandated to help bring back orderliness in the streets.
Besides, their grey fatigues which they don in the line of duty their work has not been too visible to Hararians.
Maybe they need time to find their rhythm, but time may not be on their side if Vision 2025 laid by Town House is to become a reality.
There are those who share concerns about the state of affairs in the capital and this includes the new sheriff in town. As a man who once led Harare as its second black mayor between 1984 and 1988, he says the city’s complexion has changed for the worst.
Just a month after his appointment, Minister of State Harare Metropolitan Oliver Chidawu is worried about the lawlessness in the area he is now presiding over.
“One of my priorities is to engage with my colleagues in leadership and ensure that we bring a stop to the lawlessness in Harare,” Chidawu says.
He has a mammoth task ahead of him as the city’s global rankings keep falling.
In 2018, Global Liveability Index (GLI) of 2018 ranked Harare among the least liveable city in the world. The crimes which are now becoming more rampant are not helping the situation.
City fathers are aiming to have a world class city by 2025, but to achieve that there needs to be effort to summon back the city. Those who have been privileged to live in it say it used to be beautiful, clean and safe.
One wonders where we went wrong.
Many would agree the city we live in looks like Harare, feels like Harare, but there is something missing.
Traces of the past aura remain, but only on the mouths of those who experienced its glory days.
Many a times, old souls are accused of over-reminiscence as they enthuse over the past, but it in this case it is justifiable as it is like we are living in a cheap replica of the city formerly known as Salisbury.
This poses the question, where art thou Harare?