Structural works on the imposing six-storey Parliament Building in Mount Hampden sitting on a 70-metre platform above the scenic surrounding area, symbolically projecting legislative supremacy, are 100 percent complete, save for finishing internal and external undertakings.
The construction of the building whose concept was born in 1983 with the Kopje area in Harare as the proposed site, is being undertaken on a 6-hectare stand in Mount Hampden, about 20km from the City of Harare along Old Mazowe Road, thus creating opportunities for a new city project.
The designs for the New Parliament building which embody Zimbabwean culture and heritage were completed and approved in October 2017. The building comprises common areas, offices, special services, general public and press areas, 800 parking bays, 50 of which are reserved for VVIPs, and associated services.
From atop the hill upon which the edifice magnificently stands, one is consumed in the serenity of the underlying environs, an expanse that stretches to the eye’s limit, creating a feeling of déjà vu that only comes with familiarity; such peace and tranquil that lingers on in the heart, and is therapeutic to the soul.
The serenity is only interrupted by the whirring, swishing and whispering of both machinery and man; an indication that work is, indeed, in progress to turn stone, boulder, pebble, metal, wood, water, cement and soil into infectious beauty.
Joltingly, one is reminded of man’s ability to fashion out his world through sheer belief and workmanship. Making all this possible is a workforce that constitutes 135 Chinese experts and 350 Zimbabwean citizens.
Speaking on the side-lines of an appreciation tour of the New Parliament Building by service chiefs yesterday, Ministry of Local Government and Public Works acting permanent secretary Mr Christopher Shumba said: “The final details are with the engineers, but we are happy that we are ahead of schedule. As you can see the tour indicates that we are almost through.”
He, however, could not tell off the cuff when the building would be ready for occupation due to Covid-19-induced delays which have seen the workforce at the site being scaled down in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines on curbing the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Engineer Henry Hungwe, who is the acting chief director for Public Works in the ministry affirmed that “no more structural works will be undertaken, therefore, the super-structure is now 100 percent complete.”
What is only outstanding, he added, “are internal and external finishing endeavours to enhance the beauty of the structure and make it usable. Such works to do with electricity, water supplies, air conditioning and all that which makes habitation comfortable, are what they are working on now”.
Due to lockdown restrictions, however, only 80 Chinese professionals are on site, “plastering, doing the wiring for electricity, and some air-conditioning works from the top coming down”, with the local component of the workforce expected to resume work at the end of this month, provided all safety guidelines are adhered to.
A Chinese team is also expected to bring in fittings by month end, which may help in catching up, and possibly beat the April 2021 deadline.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga appreciated the progress so far, adding that as ZRP they will advance their recommendations in due course.
“On behalf of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, I would like to thank the Minister of Local Government and Public Works for inviting us to see the developments taking place at this New Parliament Building.
“We are going to sit down with other stakeholders, and come up with specific recommendations in as far as security arrangements for this New Parliament Building are concerned.
“For now it is very important for us to ensure that we situate our police station inside the building itself, at the convenience of the contractor of course,” he said.
Also in attendance were Director- General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Ambassador Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) Commissioner-General Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, ZPCS Deputy Commissioner-General Moses Chihobvu, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Inspector-General Major-General Kasirai Tazira, and Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Mrs Virginia Mabiza.
The existing Parliament Building opposite Africa Unity Square was converted from a hotel that went broke in the 1890s, and was bought at bargain price by the British South Africa Company’s (BSAC) administrator.
The space has since become inadequate for the current 350 legislators (including the Senate and National Assembly), and 248 secretariat staff, as it was meant for 100 representatives.
The precinct of the new site’s proximity to Harare as well as its geographical environs offer opportunities for growth, and present Zimbabwe with a chance to define itself as a nation through a home-grown plan pregnant with vast prospects for all citizens cutting across the entire gamut of human endeavour.
An estimated 18 863 hectares have been set aside for the envisioned new city, three-tier site adjoining Mazowe and Zvimba rural district councils and the City of Harare.
The envisaged highway that will lead to the New Parliament Building already has a name. It is called Chairman Mao Boulevard, in honour of a great friend of Zimbabwe.
The nearby Zimbabwe National Defence University will be part of the new city, it is anticipated.
New transport links will include high performance trains and an upgrade of the nearby Charles Prince Airport.
The construction of the New Parliament Building was made possible through an RMB676,43 million grant from the People’s Republic of China. Feasibility studies were carried out by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design Company Limited in 2015.
The Government of Zimbabwe also expended US$2,4 million towards enabling works to kick-start the construction of the project.
Some of the key structures to be incorporated into the design of the new city are office parks, commercial entities, a hi-tech park, information communication technology centre park, institutional facilities, agro-processing structures, hotels, conference centre, golf course, apartments, cluster houses and garden flats, low density residential houses, civic centre game sanctuary, botanical garden, roads and green buffers.