Turning prisons into malls: Here we go again!

There is need to investigate the proposed deal between the government and a Chinese company that plans to turn Harare Central Prisons into an oriental mall, with the express objective of stopping this crazy scheme.

To me, it is as mysterious as it is shocking that grown people with five senses should have decided it sane to even consider the idea, probably wasting taxpayers’ money in travel and subsistence allowances under the guise of negotiating a deal that even Zombiland would frown upon.

“Here we go again!” was my reaction when I heard the story. Just like a Zimbabwean politician would convince hapless villagers to dig up a river in order to build a bridge so as to line his pocket.

There is no other way of explaining it; some hawks have seen a chance of fattening their pockets through a shady deal fit for the Guinness Book of Records.

If the project were to go ahead, the results are predictable. Two or three years down the line, when no meaningful development has taken place and people start asking questions, we would, inevitably, be told that the investor has pulled out, funds have run out, and all the blah we are now accustomed to hearing concerning similar shady deals.

The narrative is sickeningly familiar. There are so many deals, particularly involving Chinese investors, that have gone down the drain. For many years, we have tried to make sense out of the seemingly unsalvageable Zisco resuscitation.

The Chinese have also been linked to attempts to revive the perennially ailing Hwange Thermal Power Station. The list is endless. What has never been investigated or revealed regarding all these deals is the role played by government officials and local deal negotiators.

For me, there is a high possibility that these people have been laughing all the way to the bank. Otherwise, how do we explain the fact that we keep on going back to the Chinese for deals despite their muddy track record? If anything, Harare Central Prisons ought to be preserved and even expanded to accommodate these greedy “tenderpreneurs”, together with their colluding Chinese partners.

I would rather have those hundreds of pickpockets serving time at the complex or awaiting trial placed on an open prison system – to make way for the greedy, dirty, corrupt officials whose numbers seem to be growing by the day.

If it so important to have the Chinese build malls in Zimbabwe, which I think it is not, there are several options. There are so many fat cats out there with multiple farms illegally acquired during the fast track land destruction programme. Why not take two or three farms from that greedy lot and give them to the Chinese who, in turn would have to use their renowned expertise in construction (remember the hotel on the wetlands close to the National Sports Stadium?) to upgrade the prison complex?

Alternatively, the government could just settle on the adjacent Morris Depot, the now infamous police training grounds. Who needs to train more police officers when the hundreds that are being churned out on a monthly basis are turning into highway robbers, milking motorists and commuters alike or their hard-earned cash?

Who needs more police officers when the thousands that we already have only put on their uniform to loiter in the streets, smash car windscreens or extort money from sex workers and innocent women at night? The tenderpreneurs could be even more daring and just go ahead and give State House to the Chinese. Who needs it, anyway, considering that it has turned into a haunted white elephant? At least, there would be someone to take care of the electricity and water bills without having to bother taxpayers.

Besides the spicy and largely healthy Chinese food, I don’t see any meaningful benefit in having an oriental shopping mall, especially where that would happen at the expense of the justice system. Where would the government get the money for fuel to transport prisoners to and from Marondera and Chikurubi – to which the prisons sections would be transferred – when it is already struggling to do so with inmates currently housed at Harare Central Prisons?

Did anyone sit down to consider the aesthetic value of the prison complex, in spite of its grim history and current state? Historians, archeologists and sociologists would weep if the complex was destroyed, because there is rich history around the site.

Above all, why give the Chinese preferential treatment? Why not make them buy commercial land at competitive rates if they are serious about wanting to bring a little of China to Zimbabwe?

For feedback, please write to [email protected]

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *