Vusumuzi Dube, Municipal Reporter
A week after a Bulawayo building that housed popular fast food outlet Nando’s collapsed and killed one person, it has emerged that 35 more buildings in the city were condemned and need urgent attention to avert similar incidents.
However, it has also emerged that the collapsed building that housed Nandos was not among those that had been condemned, raising further fears that there could be more buildings facing structural defects but that have not been identified.
Bulawayo council spokesperson Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, in written responses, said the local authority has raised a red flag on 35 buildings in the city and immediately ordered occupants and owners to take remedial action on the identified defects.
Although she could not give the names of the condemned buildings she said the Nando’s building that collapsed was not on the condemned list of buildings as at 31 December 2016.
“Regular building inspections are done to all buildings in the city and should defects be noted on any of these buildings, including those with historic merit, corrective measures that ensure safety, stability and preservation of historic outlook are prescribed to the owners of such buildings. “In the event of any authority for construction works, maintenance or alterations being granted, standard building by-laws, applicable to any and all construction projects are applicable, such as the Model Building By-Laws (1977) in ensuring best design and construction standards are adhered to as well as the safety of the public.
As at the 31st December 2016, 35 buildings were condemned,” said Mrs Mpofu. Regarding the Nando’s incident, Mrs Mpofu declined to comment on council investigations on the cause of the collapse.
“The building had not been condemned. Further information should be obtained from the owners of the business who have engaged a structural engineer to produce a professional assessment on the matter,” said Mrs Mpofu. She said some by-laws which govern the state of buildings in the CBD are the Model Building By-Laws of Zimbabwe 1977, Bulawayo Buildings, Roads and Street By-Laws 1971, the Architects’ Act and the Urban Councils Act. She said whenever council noted some anomalies within buildings they issue notices to property owners advising on the course of action to be done to rectify them.
“Please note that building economics is inherently related to the performance of industry and commerce as they have a symbiotic relationship with some buildings having business linkages to the closed industries in the city. A vibrant economy creates demand for good office space and it is hoped that as the economy picks up it will also trigger positive response by property owners by refurbishing buildings to make them attractive to clients,” said Mrs Mpofu. Meanwhile, the Affirmative Action Group has added their voice to the Nando’s Building collapse, with the pressure group writing to Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere giving him 14 days to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate Simbisa as this was not the first building housing the group’s outlets that has collapsed in recent years.
“We have noted with concern the Nando’s incident that has claimed a life and we have strong convictions to believe it is a case of reckless capitalism where companies, professionals and officials cut corners to increase profits. May it be noted that the accident that occurred at a Nando’s Restaurant in Bulawayo was not the first of its kind with another Simbisa building caving in not so long ago. This is too much of a coincidence hence, placing doubt on the integrity of the company, construction engineers and the local inspecting authority.
“We have reason to believe letting the local authority probe the circumstances leading to the accident will be counterproductive as they may be in a bid to cover their incompetence. We therefore, kindly request that your organisation launch an inquiry into the structural competences of all Simbisa buildings including the recently caved in Nando’s Bulawayo,” reads part of the letter to Cde Kasukuwere. However, an official from Simbisa Brands and Nando’s Zimbabwe said the company was renting the premises and could not change some of the structures because they were deemed “heritage features”. The walk way roof outside the outlet that collapsed is said to have had some “heritage features”.
The letter was also copied to Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, Nando’s Zimbabwe and Techno Experts, with the pressure group giving the minister 14 days to response or face litigation.
In recent years the city has experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of abandoned, neglected and derelict buildings in the Central Business District. Some of the buildings include Armona Mansions located at the intersection of Robert Mugabe Way and Fourth Avenue, Chrystal at the corner of George Silundika Street and Second Avenue and Banff along Herbert Chitepo Street. Because of the rains that have been pounding the city, some of the buildings are now sapping water, raising fears that they might collapse.