Dr Davison Todson Gomo
This article is in response to an article published in the Daily News of 1 September 2012, “Economist Intelligence Unit: Harare 4th Worst City to Live In” in which Harare is alleged to be one of worst cities to live in.
Any intelligent reader will not be surprised by the rubbishing of HARARE as one of the world’s worst cities to live in. This position is taken by the Economist Intelligence Unit and God knows which Harare this paper is talking about.
Any traveller who has seen the world and its cities might be shocked to death at the appearance of an outcome of the research conducted by the Economist.
While Harare faces a lot of challenges and no doubt, is led by a group of leadership upstarts who probably have no clue about both corporate and public leadership, the city remains largely very peaceful and relatively well organised as well as functional in many respects. It is not exaggerating that many people who have never been to Harare tend to be anxious when ever contemplating a visit to the city.
However, the impression that they get on arrival, normally starting from the airport, changes their view very dramatically. Although the airport is relatively small compared with those in major cities of the world, it is fairly modest and modern by all standards. The immigration procedures are certainly less cumbersome and generally efficient and friendly. There is hardly any one at the airport who hustles passengers or visitors for money for any services rendered. I am not ruling out the possible existence of a few rotten eggs in the system.
Harare has no high visibility of uniformed armed police at the airport or on the streets. My point is that there is very little chance of any one being blown up to pieces by anti-government groups because although we have different political parties, to date, their differences have remained very much ideological and thus as far as it goes. We have a plethora of foreign organisations operating in Zimbabwe and most of them are based in Harare. It would be interesting to find out if they share the conclusion made by the Economist Intelligence Unit. There is a high probability that those who conducted the research are not only unfamiliar with cities in Africa, because if they are, my view is that their knowledge of Harare is not only far fetched but a far cry from the reality those most of us who live here know about our city.
I am fortunate that I am well travelled and know a number of places throughout the world and from that travel experience, I know very well that a lot of people are tempted to choose Harare as a place where they can live and do business and are also sure that they are relatively very safe in all possible senses of human security.
My day to day activities allow me to talk to many people who travel on business and yes it is true that what is portrayed by the Economist reflects the initial perception of the first time traveller and visitor to Harare. What can not be denied is that the negative views disappear so quickly as soon as the visitor begins to interact with reality.
There is no doubt that the city needs a massive upgrading of its various infrastructure in terms of roads, rubbish collection, street lighting, uninterrupted water services, provision of urban transport, enforcement of city regulations in terms of planning and trading activities, managing traffic congestion etc, but all that does not stop any one doing business in Harare. We have a fairly good array of hospitals and clinics in Harare that compare favourably well with some of the world’s best health centres and the Economist can be forgiven for giving a misleading position in this regard. There are a few health centres that operate twenty four hours in Harare and their standard of care is on comparative terms, very good.
I notice that there is also an argument that there is no potential for political stability in Harare and supposedly in Zimbabwe generally. Surely, how misguided can such a reputable magazine be? By all accounts, how can anyone not see that there is no political instability and friction high enough to frustrate a potential investor? Can this paper tell us how many foreign investors based in Harare share their views? Why do they not tell us which groups were asked and from which countries?
There is a residual problem with the attitude of the western European countries towards Zimbabwe because their mainstream media has ceaselessly been portraying Zimbabwe in bad light over a long period of time and a lot of the stories they churn out are not verified beyond doubt. Zimbabwe has been unfairly targeted by western media, a view sponsored by xenophobic and politically misguided elements in those societies.
At any rate, the UK in particular has been going on needlessly about sanctions on Zimbabwe and it must be understood that when a country is unjustifiably placed on sanctions, its progress is always slow and measured. However, we thank God that Zimbabweans are a creative and hard working people and against all odds. They have managed to keep the country going. Today, there are people from all over the world doing business in Zimbabwe and most of them living in Harare. It is most unlikely that these people see the situation in Harare from the same angle.
Although the findings of the Economist Intelligence Unit must be dismissed for lack of a balanced view, it remains important that the underlying problems that face Harare be addressed. As a peace loving resident of Harare, I have always thought that the City suffers from a paralysis of leadership. By far, the current Council is the worst for all time and should have been retired gracefully for derelict of duty and a general disconnect from its residents. Harare is dirtier under the current Council than at any time in its entire history and city planning is going backwards rather than forward.
The lack of respect for planning rules and complete absence of Council activity in all areas of its jurisdiction is something that requires urgent attention. The MDC-T has fired a few councillors for corruption, but that is not enough. The residents must dismiss the current crop of Councillors for lack of relevance to the needs of their people and failure to provide effective leadership that should make Harare a competitive place.
Western nations are in the habit of creating a multiplicity of organisations that claim to have global relevance and presence when in reality, these institutions are victims of their own imperial arrogance. Zimbabweans have come of age and no matter how much foreigners want them to fight each other, we know that the experience of the last three years have made them realise that there is no need to fight over political differences. So far, this project has worked out very well because there is far less political friction in Zimbabwe than in most countries and cities of the world including in London a city that is subject to periodic violence from time to time.
The City of London is home to banks that have been involved in massive financial scandals and the Economist Intelligence Unit needs to focus on cleaning up that image than waste its time trying to frighten people from investing in Zimbabwe by giving false impressions. Harare is open for business to any one from anywhere as long as they live within the confines of the law of the land. All investors are welcome to Zimbabwe and our typical Zimbabwean hospitality awaits them and not the distorted picture portrayed by a magazine located in a different world.
Dr Davison Todson Gomo an International Lawyer and Development Specialist writes is his own capacity and the views expressed here do not represent the official position of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation or The Affirmative Action Group an organisation he is associated with.