Masvingo City Council: Nurturing sustainable socioeconomic development

Zimbabwe remains a country full of natural beauty but one of economic hardship, which puts pressure on local governments and an onus on attracting investment.

The City of Masvingo is the oldest urban settlement in Zimbabwe having been founded by the Pioneer Column in 1890 then called “Fort Victoria”. The City of Masvingo is the provincial capital of Masvingo Province.

Conical Tower 3The City is strategically located equidistant from all major cities in the country, 293 kilometres from the capital city Harare, 282 kilometres from Bulawayo, 289 kilometres from Beitbridge, the border with South Africa and 297 kilometres to Mutare in the eastern highlands bordering Mozambique. Consequently, the city of Masvingo is often touted the umbilical cord that connects Zimbabwe to the South African Development Community region (SADC).

With a Provincial Population standing at 1,485,090 and with 9.8 per cent of the population living in urban areas, Masvingo Province has a youthful population with the 15-24 year age group accounting for 18.3 per cent of the total provincial population and 15.9 per cent being children under the age of 5 years (Zimstat Census, 2012).

The Masvingo City Council is responsible for a municipal area measuring 9,800 hectares. The population of the City of Masvingo according to the 2012 census was 87,886, although unofficial predictions suggest that this has grown to around 105,000.

Adolf Gusha is Town Clerk for Masvingo City Council and outlines the challenges facing the administration:

“The macroeconomic environment has not been very conducive and this has placed a number of challenges in the provision of municipal services. It has therefore become increasingly difficult for ratepayers and corporate businesses to settle their municipal bills which constrain Council in effectively providing services,” he explains.

“There is a weak industrial base and high unemployment and therefore a dwindled revenue base.”

“To try to address these issues, we have embarked on a vigorous investment promotion campaign by coming up with lucrative incentives for investors to revive our city and make it the most preferred investment destination in Zimbabwe.

“These incentives include rates moratorium, negotiable cost of land, flexible payment terms for cost of land as well as free use of natural building materials especially for those who invest in Tourist Development Zones (TDZ). We also welcome partnerships in the form of Build Operate and Transfer (BOTs).

“The State also offers a very lucrative tax regime spread over 15 years for investment in Tourism Development Zones with tax exemption during the first 5 years. The TDZ site is 20 hectares, located approximately 2 kilometres from the city centre opposite Masvingo Airport.

“We are confident that attracting investment is the key solution to our problems as it will help reduce unemployment and ultimately widen our revenue base,” he continues.

Additionally the City of Masvingo attends the Zimbabwe Travel Expo and Zimbabwe International Fair to help promote activities.

GZU School of LawTourism is an important contributor to the local economy, with the Great Zimbabwe National Monument (The House of Stones), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located just 27 kilometres from the city centre.

“The Great Zimbabwe Monument is bequeathed with a rich cultural heritage which is a major tourist attraction both locally and internationally. In its ancient times, the Great Zimbabwe Monument was a city of stone buildings built and occupied between the 12th and the 15th centuries. During its peak of power and prosperity in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Ancient city was the largest settlement in Southern Africa with an estimated population of 20,000 inhabitants,” Gusha describes.

“The monumental stonewalls were constructed to express wealth, power and pomp of the then civilised population. The structures are made of stones with no mortar. The whole complex extends across 720 hectares.

“A stone’s throw away from the Great Zimbabwe Monument is Lake Mutirikwi, the city’s source of raw water. Tourists enjoy water based activities such as fishing and boat cruises.

“Kyle Recreational Park located along Lake Mutirikwi is home to the endangered Black Rhinoceros.

“Other game such as buffalo, impala, kudu and impala roam the park and graze along the lakeside. Up market lodges and hotels in the city and along Lake Mtirikwi cater for tourists accommodation needs,” he adds.

In addition to tourism, Masvingo also hosts a Central Business District which is a hive of economic activity with established wholesalers and retailers offering a wide range of goods and services to the urban population and the entire province. The retail sector is fairly advanced and there are opportunities for growth.

Masvingo also has a number of manufacturing industries which process raw materials found within the province into final products with SIMBI (Sponge Iron Manufacturing and Beneficiation Industry) manufacturing sponge iron from iron ore.  Due to its rich agricultural base, Masvingo city is host to cattle slaughter houses and the Grain Marketing Board which processes agricultural produce into final edible products.

Additionally, Masvingo Province is rich in mineral deposits. These minerals include Lithium (Bikita Minerals), tantalite, coal, iron ore deposits, gold, limestone and chrome. Almost 90 per cent of these minerals are exported as primary products hence opportunities for beneficiation and value addition.

The Civic Centre OfficesThe City of Masvingo is also renowned as an important centre of education and plays host to a number of institutions of higher learning namely Great Zimbabwe University, Reformed Church University, Zimbabwe Open University, Masvingo Polytechnic College and Masvingo Teachers College. The combined student population at these institutions is 12,000 which present opportunities for academic related business, entertainment and student accommodation.

The City of Masvingo is the administrative capital of the province thus hosting a number of Government departments’ provincial offices.

“Local authorities are an extension of Central Government responsible for providing basic services such as potable water and management of wastewater, road infrastructure, primary schools, primary health care facilities, spatial planning and development control, residential commercial and industrial stands, licensing of business premises and most importantly developing infrastructure to attract private investment.

“Service delivery will remain our key priority in both the short and long term. Our focus is therefore on the development of a robust infrastructure that will cope with present and future demands of the city as part of our forward planning,” states Gusha.

In order to finance enhanced infrastructure, the City has made attracting investment a high priority, as Gusha explains:

“As a city we believe in the speedy approval of applications for investment into the city. We have a package of investment incentives which include flexible payment terms for cost of land, rates moratorium, and free use of natural resources during construction (in Tourism Development Zones). Trading licenses are processed within 5 working days for the ease of conducting business.

“We have a number of investment opportunities in the City of Masvingo. Investors are welcome to present their own preferred investment models. For the following projects we would prefer outright sale of land to the developer:

“A site for a high value hotel; the resuscitation of Shagashe Game Park measuring 300 hectares located 5 kilometres outside the city along the Harare-Masvingo Highway (Joint Venture preferred); there is land available for heavy industry/ manufacturing in Westview Industrial Area; the development of a warehouse to capture economies of distribution due to our unique central location (land available for the project); we have unique sites for establishment of a Shopping Malls and sites for establishment of Cluster housing units and student accommodation; the construction of a Roadport for cross border buses (BOT preferred); a site for a Truck Inn; opportunities for setting up industry for processing of agricultural produce; mining opportunities and jewellery making business and we also possess vast limestone deposits which have been discovered 15 kilometres from the city, providing an opportunity for cement manufacturing.”

In a bid to improve infrastructure, service and economic prospects, the City of Masvingo already has a number of projects underway, as Gusha details:

“We have a number of multi-million dollar projects currently under implementation namely the Review of Master Plan, Expansion of the Central business District, Mucheke Trunk Sewer Project and Water Augmentation Phase 2.

“The doubling of the current potable water capacity of the city occupies centre stage of our priority list. This massive infrastructural project, earmarked to commence in mid 2016 and be completed in 2019, will enable the city to cater for the rising demand arising from the growing population and anticipated physical growth of the town. All preliminary work has been finalised. The project will cost USD 60 million.

“Expansion of the sewage treatment works and upgrading of the sewage reticulation system to cater for future expansion of the city is number two on our project priority list.

Zimre BuildingThe City of Masvingo Master Plan (2013-2023) is now at final Draft Stage. The Master Plan is the flagship that will guide the city’s development plans over the next 10 years incorporating the major investment we will carry make in transport network, environmental projection, water and sewer expansion to name just a few. The Master Plan Review will be completed by mid 2016.

“Located east, approximately 300 metres from the heart of the Central Business District are 46 prime commercial stands for commercial exploitation in Oliver Street and Welby Avenue respectively. The stands are surveyed and partially serviced with outstanding services to be completed by April 2016. We invite serious investors to take advantage of this rare opportunity to invest in our city. Investors are welcome to submit their own development proposals compatible with the local plan. The servicing is being carried out in house.

“We have also started work on the Mucheke Trunk Sewer Project. This is a USD 5 million project, 60 per cent complete which involved the laying of a 7 kilometre trunk sewer pipeline from the sewage treatment plant passing through Mucheke high density residential area to Victoria Ranch west of the city. The project upon completion will open more than 12,000 high density residential stands for development hence reducing the city housing backlog. The project will be completed in September 2016.

“Major feeder roads in the municipal area have been repaired or reconstructed from internal resources. The City has recently introduced Prepaid Parking in the Central Business District to decongest the city centre and facilitate ease of conduct of business which has been popular with the business community.”

Going forwards, there is still plenty of work to do and Gusha is clear on the priorities for the City of Masvingo:

“My Council priority list focuses on the following key areas:

“Water and waste water infrastructure expansion; roads rehabilitation; expansion of the Central Business District ; provision of land for industrial development; continuous improvement of  the Council’s operations to provide quality municipal services; widening the Council’s revenue base and to encourage local participation of all residents in Civic affairs.

“The City Council of Masvingo has committed itself to providing quality municipal services to its customers and stake-holders in a responsive and collaborative manner that promotes sustainable social and local economic development,” he summarises.