CONTROVERSY is brewing over plans by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) to construct a US$12 million shopping mall in Chipinge, amid claims that the authority has ignored advice to locate the project in more viable centres like Chinhoyi and Marondera.
There is also an outcry from local architects that Nssa is ignoring them in their choice of contractors after it chose Pantic, a Yugoslav firm, to design the proposed mall.
Nssa sources say “although there is virtually no business there to justify the investment, (Nssa general manager James) Matiza is pushing ahead with the project because Chipinge is his home district”.
“Matiza is going to use Nssa to build a shopping centre in Chipinge most likely because this is where he comes from,” said a source.
“He has been told in meetings that the place is just not viable and other areas like Chinhoyi and Marondera would be more ideal.”
Architects who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity also criticised Nssa’s “apparent bias in favour of Pantic saying this did not augur well for the continued survival of local firms equally capable of undertaking large-scale projects”.
“These (Pantic) are the same people who did the Bindura shopping mall for Nssa and will work on the proposed new parliament. What about black Zimbabwean architects? There is absolutely no justification for the move given that Zimbabwe has lots of architects with no work to do?”
But Matiza dismissed allegations of impropriety over the project.
He said the Chipinge project was part of a 10-year development plan undertaken by Nssa sometime around 2000, long before his tenure.
“It is correct that Nssa and not the general manager is planning to construct a shopping mall in Chipinge,” said Matiza on Tuesday morning adding: “Chipinge happens to be the next location within the Nssa 10-year commercial shopping mall development plan after Gwanda, Bindura and Beitbridge. This decision was not taken by the general manager, but by the Nssa board before James Matiza became general manager of Nssa. What is happening now is just the implementation, the plan was hatched around 2000.”
Matiza also refuted claims that the project is not viable saying CB Richard Ellis was commissioned to undertake a feasibility study and produced a report dated May 28 2012 in which they confirmed that the project was viable.
“The report was presented to the Nssa board in August 2012 which approved the project based on CB Richard Ellis’ report. The tenant for the shopping mall is OK Zimbabwe.”
He also denied favouring Pantic saying it was only logical to re-hire the Yugoslav firm since Nssa is using the same design as that of its Bindura mall which was designed by the same firm.
“Pantic architects designed the Bindura shopping mall and Chipinge is using that design for its mall. That is the reason why Pantic is the architect for the Chipinge shopping mall.”