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In search of Harare

Bring back the glamour of the capital

Robert Mukondiwa
Perhaps it is one of the things that the electorate went out in search of last week when they went to the polls in Zimbabwe.

Well, at least a certain section of those who participated in the plebiscite.

Amidst all the promises of freshness by the interim, and now permanent administration of an “open for business” attitude, perhaps finally the elephant in the room would be addressed; the search for a place called Harare.

China has Tiananmen Square, United States has Time Square in New York. Place De La Concorde in France is the bearer in Paris, the capital while Trafalgar Square embodies the beauty and signature of British life in all its beauty, often breathing life in the dull dreary weather on Muddy Island, which needs a lot of brightening most times.

Zimbabwe had a city named Harare, then the sunshine city. It had a palpable grandeur and along with its golden rays of sunshine, lent the name Sunshine City to Harare and within it the High Street equivalent of First Street and Africa unity Square a few furlongs east of it made this the shopping district and the food lover’s mile.

Everybody wanted to visit Harare and sit outside in the sun as they had their breakfast.

Wimpy First Street, for example, had a perfect sitting area complete with serene pond that gave an ambiance like no other.

There was an unmistakeable aura of perfection. Angels, when they had clocked in their hours and earned their vacation, would head right down to Harare for a well-deserved break in a heaven away from heaven.But not anymore.

Lucifer has been promised punishment by God when judgement day comes. But even he wishes to be sent to Hell as an occupant than the prospect of being sent to Harare as it stands now. Even demons have relocated to friendlier territory, not because Harare has grown holy but because the degree of rot is even beyond the stench that their unholy noses can take.

At the beautiful square which once housed the police post, Wimpy sitting area, the beautiful pond and “Cabs, the country’s number one”; an infuriating mess now stands firm in erstwhile beauty’s place.

While Cabs is investing arguably millions of dollars sprucing up their offices at the very corner, they are hardly heartened and encouraged.

Because at the “Wimpy sitting area” now resides a woman of questionable cerebral integrity known as Mundevere, who has made a home at that iconic place.

That is hardly what is bewildering. What is bewildering is how everyone passes “her home, complete with firewood, stone cooking rigs, and an old upright fan gauze she uses on which she places her pots which in turn are lined up along the earthen structure where people used to sit and enjoy the Harare sun. And they hardly bat an eyelid. This travesty has been normalised.

Aeons after primitive man discovered fire and improved on it in urban settings, someone in the heart of the district of commerce squats using firewood and nobody finds that amiss!

Mundevere has even much cheek. She washes her clothes in the pond of the now derelict fountain and hangs the streaks of sordid cloth on the railing around the fountain and its pond and everything is made to look fine and dandy!

The landmark oblong fountain terrazzo was designed by Leslie Field and set up in 1974. Leslie would no doubt throw a fit if he were to return and find out that Mundevere now used that beauty dedicated to Cabs’ 25th anniversary as a bit of shade providing stone for when the sun hangs in the heart of the city sky!

Behind her is a whole corridor of boxes laden with bootleg phones being peddled by young men who snarl at the legal pedestrians should you accidentally run into their boxes. What cheek?

Some dilapidated parts of Harare

In the heart of Africa Unity Square the photographers offer a traditional service which does not infringe on the free movement of others while the flower vendors are orderly and well assigned. Good for them.

But just recently, when the city bylaw anarchy kept being approved thanks to absence of enforcement of the laws, an odd woman decided to come into the beautiful square, complete with her ‘bale’ of hand me down wrinkled jackets and had them strewn across the front of the flagpole and opened up shop where there used to be a bus shed in the past!

Nobody batted an eyelid. It was all normal in this ‘new Harare’ it would seem.

George Silundika has its gift from Satan. At Clinton House is a man with ill-fitting large formal shirts with a growth point like board where CD’s are lined up as he blares a noisy radio nonchalantly, not worried that there are people in office buildings getting down to serious work. That there are bylaws against noise in the CBD doesn’t seem to bother him. It doesn’t seem to bother the passer-by either who seem to be resigned in this wave of urban anarchy.

The fountains at Angwa and First Street as well as Kwame Nkrumah and First Street have become a Biblical haunt of every foul spirit and demon. The rot is beyond words.

The latter was a gift to the city and is marked by two beautiful sables which were moved from Town Hall but now sit at the corner of Nkrumah and First Street. They are now haunted by political party signage while their perimeter has been cracked open presumably by a car that veered off the road and headed for the sables. Designer Gillian Kaufmann would be so proud indeed of the rot they lie in.

As would Derek Austin the designer of the fountain at the corner of First and Angwa, who created what was meant to represent a gem for Rhobank, before ZB Bank, but now the eyesore is that of the slug leftover after the extraction of diamonds.

To expect Cabs and poor John Moxon of Meikles to sink in investment to spruce up their properties while having them immediately devalued by Mundevere and other spirits is disingenuous and absolutely unfair.

The city fathers, whoever the newcomers will be, have to make sure that we reward urban investment with a reciprocal preservation of an enabling social environment.

Meikles just sunk 2 million into new elevators alone. Just the elevators. That the illegal money changers make a beeline for the hotel when they are pressed for a long held number two and abuse the hotel’s toilets is hardly encouraging for any investor.

It is evil to expect our friends and investors to be faced with such.

But hopefully change is on the way. Those who yearn for opening of business also have the wisdom to know what is bad for business. Perhaps we can start with the CBD. The heart and heartbeat of Harare. The Lost City. Literally lost to our history books as the current disgrace is hardly what can be called a city.

While many will give the ‘where are the jobs’ argument, the real argument is enacting order and orderliness.

In Brussels Belgium for example there are many people who also sell their wares as well as buskers who perform for money. But if they are given a cordoned off area as an inner city market and they are given portable ablution cubicles, then it is a win for all.

The current travesty is anything but acceptable.

And now we pray for the return to Harare. The Sunshine City. A return to the Eden that it was. And rediscover the Lost City.

Source :

The Herald

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