BULAWAYO councillors have warned that the much-awaited multi-million dollar Batch Street terminus project risks being another pipe dream and residents will judge them harshly due to delays in implementing it.
The local authority plans to convert the site, popularly known as Egodini, into a regional transport hub and shopping complex and awarded a tender to a South African firm, Terraccota Trading (Pty) Ltd last year.
However, the project is yet to take off, with the compensation of seating tenants being the sticking issue.
The city valuer estimates that compensation is $ 102 253.
According to the council, under the initial agreement, the developer had agreed to compensate tenants. It was agreed that Terraccota Trading would bring their own valuers who would work with council’s valuation section and come up with compensation amounts.
But this has now changed and Terraccota is insisting on council footing the compensation bill for the affected tenants.
Council is not in agreement.
“Council, right from the start, pointed out that they are not in a position to compensate the existing tenants for improvements that they effected on the leased stand,” read the latest council minutes.
“Council opted for this approach because it is financially crippled and has no capacity to demolish the buildings on the leased stands.”
On the commuter buses and vendor sites, Terracotta is to develop facilities and council says “it is prudent for such facilities to be controlled by the local authority as these are public facilities and this was known by the company right from the onset”.
However, “Terraccotta now states that everything that is to be developed at Egodini should generate money for the company and not for anyone else, they call these important revenue streams for the company”.
With the bickering, a proposal was made to re-tender the project, but faced resistance within council.
During last week’s full council meeting, councillor Rodney Jele said the project risked being a pipe dream.
“Your worship, you once told us that you have a dream, a dream to see the project being done and complemented,” he said.
“Now there is call for re-tendering, which will be another lengthy process.
“The project risks being another Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), which has taken decades to be implemented.
“We made promises to residents to carry the project and they will judge us harshly if we abandon it.” Jele said the negotiations were progressing slowly because council was now dictating the pace.
“The project had taken too long to commence,” he continued.
“Council should agree on the projects to be carried out at Egodini.
“The developer was also supposed to benefit from the project.
“Council should consider an investment of not more than 40% of the transport operating fees and vending fees.”
The MZWP was first mooted in 1912 to provide water for the arid Matabeleland provinces.
Councillor Rueben Matengu said the changes that had been made by Terraccota could indicate that the company was no longer interested. He said council should consider retendering the project.
Deputy mayor Gift Banda said that negotiations should be clear that the city needed this kind of development.
He said Terraccota was a foreign company that wanted to provide the city with development and as such council was not supposed to lose the project because of minor issues.
Banda said the local authority should bear the costs of compensating tenants.