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Egodini decade of deception

09 Apr 2023 at 12:00hrs | Views
WHEN the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) ordered vendors and transport operators to vacate Basch Street Terminus on 25 March 2016, those men and women that were marched out of the place famously known as Egodini perhaps could not have imagined that seven years later, they would still be in the "wilderness".

At the time, the exit of kombis and vendors was bittersweet. It was bitter because this was a place that many of them called home, with the terminus a crucial part of their day-to-day economic fortunes.

It was sweet because, despite the sad sight of hordes of people being displaced from their place of business, everyone thought it was ultimately for the city's greater good.

Bulawayo was going to get its own mall. Pictures of what the imagined new and improved Egodini would look like at the end of construction works were eye-catching, with all indications that the city was about to be blessed with a feat of architectural excellence it had not seen in a while.

The concept images and videos were sleek and breathtaking and long-time residents of the city, who had for years witnessed the supposed chaos and filth of the old Egodini, could be forgiven for thinking that the mall would transform the lives of the people of Bulawayo.

Indeed, when BCC awarded Terracotta Trading (Pvt) Ltd the tender to start work on Egodini on 11 October 2012, there was a belief that the company had the capability to bring a concrete and steel behemoth right into the middle of Basch Street.

"Terracotta submitted an estimated project cost of US$60 million and detailed their experiences in the development of shopping malls in South Africa and they have also developed a similar development to the one that they are proposing to do at Egodini. Their submission also demonstrated that they did put a lot of work into the proposal and the designs are impressive. The company is made up of Zimbabweans and South Africans," read a council report from that time.

However, since then, the Egodini Mall story has been a tale of false starts and disappointment for the people of Bulawayo. Deadline after deadline has been missed, and now whenever Bulawayo's swashbuckling city fathers speak of fresh new timelines for the Egodini Mall competition, only the extremely gullible believe a word that comes out of their mouths.

As years pass, the Egodini project has taken on the form of a great deception, a pie in the sky that is meant to be merely spoken about but not eaten.
"We once had a discussion on radio where we had a Moyo from Terracotta promising that by the end of last year, they would have completed the project," said Bulawayo Progressive Residents' Association chairman Mr Ambrose Sibindi last year in January.

"It comes as a surprise that now they are saying by April (2023) they would have opened the taxi rank and vending bays. I blame council who are in contract with Terracotta. What is the contract saying? Is the person meeting the deadline of the contract or they are violating the contract? If they are violating the contract, I think there should be a clause to tell what happens to someone who violates the contract."

A year later, Egodini still resembles a wasteland, with a few signs that activity will pick up soon. In February, the council announced that vendors and public transport operators would start relocating back to Egodini within that same month.

Two months later, however, that is yet to happen, with the council acknowledging that due to the slow pace of construction of facilities at the site, this is not yet feasible. "There were currently open trenches for the installation of fire hydrants and electricals, these were running across the site making the site unusable, however, the developer had indicated that installation of electricals and hydrants would be completed by the week ending the 17 February 2023.

"The bus rank had not been paved and the developer had indicated that paving was expected to be completed the week ending 17 February 2023. Bus sheds had not been roofed and the contractor had advised that all roofing materials had been secured and are currently stored in a warehouse waiting for the roof contractor to finish manufacturing other components.

The roof was also expected to be completed by the week ending 17 February 2023. The ablution facilities block was at window level and there would be need for it to be completed before the occupation of the facility," read the latest council minutes.

While the closure of Egodini has been a logistical nightmare, presenting an unneeded headache for transport operators, commuters and city planners alike, at a sentimental level, the closure of the terminus has managed to erase one of the city's major landmarks.

Once upon time, before fancy graphs detailing an imagined mall, were drawn up by architectural whiz kids, Egodini used to be the beating heart of Bulawayo. Egodini was the nerve centre, with the roads branching out of Basch Street acting as veins taking to city's western commuters to different sections of Bulawayo.

Now, however, Egodini has lost both its logistical and social function, and while it seemed like a small sacrifice to make for the grand prize of a mall at the time, a decade later, it does not seem to be a worthy tradeoff.

"It seems as if our children will grow up without knowing what Egodini actually is. To kids in primary school it's just a great big space while for us, it was the place we would spend time and say goodbye to our friends, especially after school on Fridays," said Sixolisiwe Nkomo, a Zimbabwean now resident in the UK.

To illustrate Bulawayo's yearning for a great mall, Imbali Mall has emerged as the new and happening place in Bulawayo, with those of the younger generation making the joint a hive of constant activity.

Offering a wide array of cuisine, ranging from the freshest sushi to juiciest grilled ribs, iMbali's food court has become a designated selfie area, with none who visit it daring to leave without taking a much-treasured snap.

Ten years after the idea of Egodini Mall, was first mooted, Bulawayo may finally be getting over that unlikely dream, with smaller, less ambitious projects standing to reap the benefit from city fathers' lethargy.

Source - Sunday News
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