Riverside residents are at loggerheads with the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) over the construction of a shopping mall in the suburb.
The shopping mall, which will consist of a shopping centre and students’ residence, is being constructed by the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) near the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) campus.
In an interview with CITE, Ward 4 Councillor Silas Chigora said the council was fully aware residents were against the idea but went on to grant IBDZ permission to develop the land.
“Residents feel the whole deal was not above board as the council was aware of their objections before it received the application for the project as there was a meeting that was attended by council staff where the residents objected to the project.
“On the other hand, the council says residents did not raise objections within the given period only raising objections after the expiry of the notice period,” highlighted Chigora.
The land in question which is situated next to the Theological College of Zimbabwe (TCZ) belonged to a private individual who sold it to IBDZ.
“IBDZ then applied to the council to develop business shops on the ground floor and student’s accommodation on the first floor going up.
“Since accommodation was not originally planned it was told to advertise for special consent which it did and sent letters to abutting properties and did not get objections hence the project was approved by the council,” said Cllr Chigora.
He said residents did not receive letters seeking their consent even though the council knew they were objecting the idea.
“Residents were aware of this development prior to the advert but did not see the advert nor get the said letters seeking their consent.
‘Some letters were received well after the objection period had elapsed with some letters going to wrong addresses.”
He said residents had strong objections to this development citing security reasons as this will invite strangers into the neighbourhood, property values would plunge as this is tantamount to turning the surroundings into a high-density suburb as more than 1000 students will be housed at the complex increasing loitering and traffic in the area.
“Residents expected IDBZ to partner with NUST and develop the hostels inside NUST where there is more than enough space,” explained Cllr Chigora.
Contacted for comment, the residents’ chairperson Reverend Useni Sibanda confirmed they objected to the development.
“We are objecting to the construction because proper procedures were not followed. More than 1000 students cannot be crossing the busy Bulawayo-Beitbridge highway as there could be many fatalities,” said Sibanda.