Plans by the government and Bulawayo City Council to modernise the city’s oldest suburb of Makokoba are gathering dust amid skepticism among locals over the ambitious project.
In 2018, government said it had mobilised US$139,24 million towards the modernisation of the country’s oldest urban suburbs such as Mbare in Mbare, Makokoba and Sakubva in Mutare.
The Makokoba rehabilitation project was expected to cost US$21 million with the council contributing US$$5,5 million to turn the suburb into a high-rise residential area.
Makokoba being one of the oldest suburbs in Bulawayo was commissioned in 1900.
History has it that it was named after the actions of one Mr Fallon, the native commissioner at the time, who used to walk around with a stick bending his body towards the front (ukukhokhoba in Ndebele).
The suburb was built strictly for blacks, who were working in the city while their families lived in rural areas.
However, there has been no movement on the modernisation project.
Some residents criticised the project saying it will distort Makokoba’s historical legacy.
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The elderly, however, said Makokoba in its current state brings back bad memories of how they were treated under the white colonial rule.
Miriam Gumbo, a Makokoba resident, said she was skeptical about the whole modernisation project owing to years of false development promises over the years.
“We don’t want to risk our houses which we fully own. The project might take ages to complete,” Gumbo said.
“The only building that needs to be rehabilitated here in Makokoba is the Vundu Flats where bachelors stay.”
The suburb battles constant sewer pipe bursts.
Makokoba is home to one of the single largest markets in the city, eMkambo, where even traditional medicines including aphrodisiacs are sold.
Themba Sibanda, a resident, said Makokoba deserved modernisation.
“We feel neglected in the social and economic development of our suburb,” Sibanda said.
Poverty is also rife in Makokoba.
“That is why you find most houses in the suburbs having small tuckshops,” Sibanda said.
“We wish the government can improve the livelihood of people, our children are not employed which is a big challenge in our society.”
In 2019, council opened tenders for the Makokoba modernisation project.
In April this year, government carried a notice from the local authority on the expression of interest for consultancy services for the preparation of the Makokoba local subject plan.
Makokoba is home to Stanley Hall and Stanley Square, historically the home of Zapu.
Legendary artists like Dorothy Masuka and township jazz popularly known as kwela were also known to perform at Stanley Hall and Stanley Square.
Amakhosi Theatre, the city’s arts hub, is also in Makokoba.