THE US$6,5 million Zanu PF conference centre built in Gweru last year for the party’s 13th annual people’s conference is fast-becoming a white elephant amid reports no major activities are taking place there despite assurances by the leadership the venue would be a tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
This comes against the backdrop of plans by the party to build another posh conference centre in Chinhoyi for its December conference, likely to cost US$10 million.
The 5 000-seater facility, dubbed the “Hall of Shame” is owned by the Midlands Development Association (MDA) — a grouping of businesspeople, linked to Zanu PF — and was built in just two-and a-half months by a Chinese company.
The convention centre was constructed under the stewardship of Murehwa South legislator Joel Biggie Matiza, appointed Local Government deputy minister in the new Zanu PF government.
The centre’s aim is to generate income for a broke Zanu PF which has even been failing to pay its workers.
Impeccable sources in the Midlands claim the conference centre, 15km along the Mvuma road and about 20km from Gweru city centre, has failed to attract the envisaged business.
“Very little has happened since the facility hosted the Zanu PF party in December last year,” said a Zanu PF source in Gweru. “So far, it has been used for Zanu PF functions only with the last one being a provincial restructuring meeting held at the end of April when the party’s national chairperson, Simon Khaya Moyo toured the province.”
But MDA chairperson Larry Mavhima argued the centre is being used for various functions, insisting: “The facility is being rented out to people for various functions such as conferences, weddings and churches. We have plans to build a hotel, a shopping mall and some recreational facilities at the conference centre to attract people from the city centre.”
But a Gweru wedding planner said: “Honestly, who would rent the 5 000-seater facility for a wedding? In any event, nowadays people prefer garden weddings to halls for their weddings. Besides, the centre is not adequately accessible.”
Meanwhile, Zanu PF sources in Chinhoyi said the party had settled for the area just behind the Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital as the construction site for its December conference, with Chinhoyi University of Technology grounds being an alternative venue should construction fall behind schedule due to lack of funds.
The sources also claim the third option would be to lay concrete slabs and pitch tents on the initially identified site.
However, some highly-placed sources within Zanu PF are querying the logic behind constructing plush conference centres countrywide when the party is in financial dire straits.