Harare's recreational facilities in ruin

Staff Reporter

The Harare City Council (HCC) continues to face intense criticism for the neglect of the City's recreational facilities, which have deteriorated into disrepair and become havens for illegal activities and vagrancy.

This decline has left residents reminiscing about better times when these spaces were well-maintained and bustling with community activities.

In the Central Business District (CBD), residents of Trafalgar Flats recall the days when Harare Gardens was a vibrant community hub.

Long-time resident Itai Machisa lamented the loss of the once-popular 'Theatre in the Park' events that provided entertainment and cultural enrichment for the community.

"The thatched gazebos used to host 'Theatre in the Park' and other art activities. It was a vibrant space where people from all walks of life would come together to enjoy performances and socialize. Now, those days are long gone, and the neglect of these facilities has put an end to the dramas," Machisa said.

Tawanda Chafa, another resident, criticised the HCC for neglecting the historical Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield.

"The Zimbabwe Grounds have a rich history and are vital for our community's political and social gatherings. It's disheartening to see them in such a state of neglect," Chafa stated.

Edith Mwenje castigated the HCC for doing a shoddy job on the renovation of Rufaro Stadium.

"The renovations at Rufaro Stadium were supposed to restore its glory, but the poor execution has left it far from its former self. It's embarrassing and unacceptable," Mwenje commented.

Commenting on these developments, Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba highlighted the broader issue of neglect in community recreational facilities.

"Stadia and community grounds are left to deteriorate. Open spaces that used to serve as playgrounds and meeting places for youth and the elderly have been converted into residential areas and local home industries. This has meant that the young people have nowhere else to go to interact with each other in sporting activities and social games.

“The high and increasing incidence of drug and substance abuse can easily be contained if the recreational facilities are regularly maintained and accessible to the youth in our communities who are largely unemployed," said Shumba.

Political commentator Elton Ziki also weighed in, criticising the opposition-led councils for their failure to maintain and improve existing recreational facilities. "The neglect of these facilities is a clear indication of the failure of our local authorities to prioritise the needs of the community. Instead of investing in the upkeep of these spaces, they have become breeding grounds for crime and antisocial behaviour," Ziki said.

In response to these growing concerns, President Mnangagwa recently established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the governance of the Harare City Council since 2017.

The gazetted Statutory Instrument 91 of 2024 will examine issues such as financial mismanagement, compliance with procurement laws, and the failure to implement an enterprise resource planning system for the HCC.