Construction of Zimbabwe’s new capital city in Mt Hampden – some 20km from central Harare – will begin within the next two years after Cabinet approved the multi-million-dollar project.
The Sunday Mail has reported that Government engaged international experts to thrash out technical details regarding environmental impact and land use patterns.
The authorities are also studying development plans from prospective investors.
Funding will largely be sourced via external loans underwritten by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development as well as land sales.
Director of physical planning in the Local Government Ministry Mrs Ethel Mlalazi said: “The proposal for the new city has already gone through Cabinet and a decision was made to go ahead with the plan. We are hoping that once we have appropriate partners, the project will begin to take shape.
“We have already identified the site and are currently vetting potential partners who will assist in completing this multi-faceted task which requires a lot of expertise, financial resources and manpower.”
Mrs Mlalazi said her department assumed responsibility for planning the city as the proposed site is “virgin territory” existing outside Harare council boundaries.
“The challenge is that the department (of physical planning) lacks the capacity to tackle the project on its own; in terms of planning experience and human resources.
“Therefore, we are looking for interested partners to help develop proper ideas on what the site will look like and, subsequently, site development.
“There are some local and international investors who have expressed interest; we are talking to them and remain hopeful that negotiations will bear fruit.
“I am sure in two years time we would have made quite some progress in respect of planning and actual on-site work.”
The new metropolis is part of a grand strategy to decongest Harare, which was originally tailored for a smaller population but now has over 2,1 million people.
Designed in the mould of South Africa’s Sandton in Johannesburg, the city will accommodate Government ministries, Parliament, residential areas, shopping malls, hotels and industries.
A plan for the US$140 million Parliament complex has already been drawn up.
Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planning president Mr Percy Toriro said: “The new city will be free of the problems in Harare.
“The capital has developed organically since it was planned and many things were not anticipated, especially in terms of population growth.
“Therefore, the new city presents an opportunity for sustainable planning, which accommodates all factors such as population growth that were overlooked when Harare was developed. Mt Hampden will give planners a chance to re-plan.
“Obviously, it will be costly: There will be expenses for setting up infrastructure, but these costs will largely be offset by land sales by developers.
“When Sandton City was constructed, it was costly but land sales reduced construction costs. There are other countries like Nigeria that have done it before. So, it will not be anything new.”