BULAWAYO – Bulawayo councillors resolved Wednesday to speed up the relocation of commuter omnibuses and vendors to Egodini – the site of a long-stalled new mall – fearing that Zanu PF could seize the space and settle its supporters.
Informal traders and public transport buses were displaced from the mall in 2018 to pave the way for the construction of a massive new mall by a South African company, Terracotta Trading.
Five years later, he company has only completed the first phase of the project which includes a public transport terminal and vending bays for 660 informal traders.
A full council meeting heard Wednesday tat provincial affairs minister Judith Ncube and members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) accompanied by Zanu PF-aligned vendor groups toured Egodini last month and then made proposal to the council, including the expansion of the bays which they said were “too small”.
The opposition-run council resolved to reject the proposals by the minister and Zanu PF, fearing any delays would create an opportunity by the ruling party to illegally its vendors on the bays. Zanu PF-aligned vendors have resisted removal from the streets.
Councillor Siboniso Khumalo told the meeting: “The Zanu PF government hiding behind JOC does not respect Bulawayo and for a long time they have been doing this. The provincial affairs minister is now doing as if she is the Bulawayo mayor, she must be called to order. She must stick to her duties and never usurp our authority.
“According to the country’s constitution, she is non-existent, we accepted her because she is a Bulawayo resident and former employee of the city. Our wish and that of Terracotta is that kombis (commuter omnibuses) must go back to Egodini and vendors follow.”
Khumalo warned BCC management against engaging with the minister’s office without the councillors’ authority.
He said proposals to change the size of the vending bays that have been created at Egodini were a guise to frustrate the Egodini Mall project, and create space for illegal activities by Zanu PF-aligned vendors.
“Our management must know that they get instructions from us and no-one else. We want Egodini to be opened for kombis now, so that they operate from there followed by vendors. If we accept the changes to the vending bays it will mean a change of timelines.”
Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni concurred, urging councillors to stick to contractual timelines.
Mguni said: “We know the time we are in, it’s election season, and if we allow these changes which will push further the opening of Egodini beyond July, what will that mean to you as councillors?
“Kombis were supposed to be back at Egodini in December and we have a contract with timelines. How do we talk of changes without our input, and also giving the developer who has already failed to deliver on time a lifeline to further extend the work?”
Councillor Ernest Rafamoyo railed at government interference in the running of local authorities.
“I want to remind the councillors that the courts have struck off government interference in councils. We were supposed to open in December and we must open Egodini now. Other things will be sorted whilst we are there,” Rafamoyo fumed.
“The government has destroyed Bulawayo and before they manoeuvre and put their people there, we must put Bulawayo people. We represent Bulawayo people and let’s let our people go back.”
Councillor Edwin Ndlovu said discussing proposals by the provincial minister was a “waste our time.”
“We can’t discuss a report by strangers in the city of Bulawayo. The minister comes only when she has been invited by the mayor and to have this report here is a big mistake. Let’s stick to our timelines with the contractor and if the contractor cannot fulfil his obligations, we cancel it,” the councillor said.
Donaldson Mabuto, the councillor for Ward 9, told the meeting: “This answers why Egodini has not come to conclusion. People are now politicking with the Egodini issue. It’s surprising that the provincial affairs minister went there without the blessing of the city.
“The way things are, that Zanu PF guy who said vendors will stay at Fifth Avenue until Jesus comes will take over at Egodini and put his people there. Our people may be overlooked with people coming from outside Bulawayo being put in there. The minister and JOC must let us do our work as per the law.”
Mayor Mguni said returning kombis to Egodini would decongest the city centre.
The debate ended with councillor Rafamoyo proposing that kombis should immediately move back to Egodini, with vendors to follow by mid-February, and his proposal was seconded by Mabuto and adopted by the full council.
Councillors said priority would be given to vendors who were selling from Egodini before they were displaced in 2018.