The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
UNSCRUPULOUS long distance bus operators have taken advantage of the Bulawayo City Council’s neglect of the Centenary Park by turning it into an illegal pick-up and drop-off point for passengers.
Years of neglect has seen the park turning into a pale shadow of its former self, with the local authority failing to maintain it.
A number of recreational facilities within the park have long been non-operational, with the only facility that is operational being the Amphitheatre which occasionally hosts funerals and memorial services.
A visit to the Centenary Park by a Sunday News crew revealed that even bus operators have taken advantage of this neglect and turned the facility into an illegal bus rank.
However, the local authority has claimed that they have not neglected the park, instead citing unavailability of funds for their lack of maintaining the facility.
Responding to questions from Sunday News, the local authority’s corporate communications manager, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said while they have an annual budget allocation for the rehabilitation of the Centenary Park and other recreational facilities in the city, this was subject to residents paying their financial obligations.
She, however, said for 2022 they had reduced their allocation for the city’s parks from $23 million in 2021 to $18 million.
“Council always budgets for these Recreational Centres annually.
In 2021 council budgeted US$1,3 million or Zimbabwe Dollar equivalent towards refurbishment of Recreation Centres. In the 2022 budget, US$2 million has been earmarked for the same purpose.
There is always a set budget every year for the City’s Parks but because of lack of funding council is not able to attain its set targets. The set budget amount for 2021 was $23 million and for 2022 the budget is $18 million.
These budgets are a projected amount which is required by council to refurbish these centres and titivate the Parks,” said Mrs Mpofu.
She said the amount budgeted was a hold on vote and council expected to collect the money from residents and other stakeholders as they settle their financial obligations.
“Lack of adequate funding has resulted in council failing to carry out planned wholesome refurbishment of these recreational facilities and centres.
The City of Bulawayo is doing its best under the circumstances to maintain these facilities and ensure that they serve their purpose.
Refurbishment of some recreation centres and titivation of Parks is part of council’s plans for year 2022.
However, accomplishment of these plans depends on availability of funding.
“Plans are in place to engage Central Government for resource support especially for the bigger projects that require capital funding. There are also plans in place to recruit more staff to complement the existing depleted labour force and this will go a long way in improving the state of our parks and recreational centres.
“For now, council has budgeted for the procurement of equipment and recruitment of staff to assist in the management of these facilities. Refurbishment is done in phases due to limited capital funding and further development partners and well-wishers are being engaged.
The city also has Planned Maintenance programmes which are ongoing,” said the council spokesperson.
Mrs Mpofu said the local authority was encouraging partnerships where a number of Memorandums of Understanding can be done for instance with other partners such as Mambira Foundation and Future Foundation who have offered to refurbish Mzilikazi and Vulindlela recreation centres.