CAIRO – In 2015, we were told that construction of Zimbabwe’s new administrative capital will get underway in Mt Hampden — some 20km from central Harare — within two years after Cabinet approved the multi-million-dollar project.
Well, it’s now three years, and nothing is happening.
Again in 2015, during a visit to Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told a gaggle of African editors at the Presidential Palace that after almost 1 000 years as the capital, in three years, Cairo will be relieved of duty as the administrative capital.
Sisi was responding to my question on what he was doing about the traffic jam in Cairo. You see, Cairo has become overcrowded, with an estimated population of 15 million inhabitants, 2 million more than the total population of Zimbabwe as a whole.
Last weekend, I returned to Egypt, again at the invitation of Sisi. And guess what? In just two years, the average work done in the construction of the new administrative capital ranges between 40 to 60 percent.
Al Masha Capital Hotel has already been completed. And it was done in 16 months! The hotel is one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the Middle East. The construction of this hotel — comprising an international cinema, a huge theatre, a shopping area, a group of top-notch rotating restaurants, high standard villas, sports fields and playing area for kids — was assigned to the Financial Affairs administration of the army under General Mohammed Amin. By the way, Sisi is a no-nonsense retired general and a fighter pilot.
The completion of the hotel in record time was meant to become a model for other companies and governments to follow regarding its grandeur and its fast realisation.
The construction of Egypt’s new administrative capital is taking place at a frenetic pace, unlike the lethargy we are noticing in Mt Hampden.
Egypt’s new administrative capital extends over an area that is equal to the size of Singapore — ask Mugabe how big that place is.
It extends over 184 000 acres between Al-Sokhna road and the regional ring road 60km just outside Cairo, just like Mt Hampden. The capital is also 60km away from Suez city and Al-Ain Al-Sokhna.
It is planned to encompass 6,5 million inhabitants, providing 1,5 million housing units that are nearing completion and also create 3,5 million job opportunities. This is not pie in the sky like Zanu PF’s promised 2,2 million jobs.
The new Egypt capital is divided into the government district that includes the headquarters of 32 ministries, the headquarters of the council of ministers and the Parliament with a total of 36 buildings in addition to the new Presidential Palace.
It will also have the embassies district where each embassy is allocated 15 acres, the Economic and Business District also includes the headquarters of the central bank and a money press. By the way, the money in circulation here is the Egyptian pound and US$1 is equivalent to E£18.
The new capital also includes a Justice City, comprising a court complex, prosecution halls and Administrative Control Authority.
Six universities are also being built; American, British, Canadian, Sweden, Sinai and Hungarian. The new capital is being connected by railway via the Egyptian National Railways system. Their train service still works! I was so green with envy.
And there is a new airport being built there on an area of 16km. The new capital also contains a large 8km central park.
And the skyscrapers going up, ladies and gentleman, are just a marvel to watch. And they are being constructed by Chinese company, CSCIC — the company that has built 90 percent of skyscrapers in China.
Egypt’s new capital will have the highest skyscraper in Africa with a height of 345 metres in the middle of the Economic and Business District.
In addition to this gigantic skyscraper, the district also includes 20 other towers, 12 malls and its planned to have an entertainment area that would be three times and half the size of Universal Studio.
The first phase is expected to be finished by the end of 2018 and a number of ministries would have been relocated there by that time.
Egypt, and indeed, Zimbabwe, are not the first countries to moot the idea to transfer their administrative capitals. Germany’s capital was Berlin until the end of World War II, and then it became Bonn. After its reunification, the capital returned to Berlin.
Similarly Russia’s capital was Saint Petersburg until 1918 before it was changed to Moscow where the ministries were relocated.
So here in Zimbabwe, we are not reinventing the wheel. What we need is visionary leadership, lots of money and the political will to see through the Mt Hampden project.