Councils to renovate properties for sale

In a desperate attempt to increase revenue generation, the Harare City Council has announced that it will soon renovate all council properties lying idle to ensure that they fetch a higher market value.

Entrance to a council beerhall in Harare.
Entrance to a council beerhall in Harare.

Over the past few years, numerous valuable council properties have turned into white elephants due to neglect and gross mismanagement. Some of them have been leased out to private companies and individuals.

The Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, said the council would soon embark on an exercise to ensure that council increases revenue collection from over 11,000 council properties across Harare province.

“We are aware that these assets fall in three different categories with some fetching more money than the others,” said the Mayor. “We are going to invite professionals to assist us to evaluate the properties to establish how much each of these assets is worth. This is essential so that if we are to lease them, we do it according to their true value.”

Last year, Rufaro Marketing, Harare City Council’s liquor selling company, adopted a 100 percent leasing concept for all its beer halls and properties.

The board turned all beer halls into a real estate venture: leased out to corporates, individuals and workers who had served the firm for over 20 years and been laid off. Expectations were that leasing 86 beer outlets would raise $4 million annually.

In a related development in Manicaland province, Mutare City Council last year resolved to lease out its seven beer halls under Pungwe Breweries after it emerged that the business entity had become financially unsustainable.

Manyenyeni said once evaluated, assets in the prime tier, such as council offices in the central business district, would be renovated to ensure that they attract higher rentals – thereby increasing revenue generation for council.

“We can go commercial and get proper and tangible returns from council assets in the prime tiers while those that are in the lower tier, such as flats in high density areas, can be sold to the sitting tenants,” he said.

Chitungwiza Town Clerk George Makunde said because the local authority was financially crippled, it was difficult to resuscitate most council premises such as halls and council beer halls, the majority of which were being shunned by revellers because of their poor state.

“We have the plans to revive council properties but we do not have resources to renovate them. It is a long process that requires resources,” said Makunde. He revealed that council was battling to pay its workers. “It is important that we explore other avenues of revenue generation. Leasing council properties is one such way of doing this,” he said.

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