City converts golf courses into grandstands

the herald

Municipal journalist

HARARE City Council (HCC) has been caught in a fresh storm after it emerged that the corruption and controversy-riddled municipality was seeking to convert two community golf courses into residential and commercial stands.

Sherwood Golf Course in Mabelreign, which was established in 1961, may soon be razed to make way for residential stands, which are the go-to source of funding for the opposition CCC, the party that leads the HCC.

Another golf course that could soon become history is the Warren Hills Golf Course, as the town fathers grab any open space for residential or commercial stands, leaving none to recreational purposes.

Both golf courses were developed under planning regulations on land unsuitable for construction but zoned for recreation, typically wetlands which even today can only be legally developed for recreation.

A council environmental management committee tasked with approving the shoddy golf course conversion deal was scrapped last Thursday due to wrangling over committee formation involving the CCC and MDC-T.

According to an environmental management committee agenda distributed to councilors and managers, prior to the meeting, the conversion of the two golf courses was on the agenda.

“Rebooking portions of Booths 8112, 8113, 8118 Warren Park Township and 812 Mabelreign Township from open space and recreation (golf course) to mixed-use development (residential, commercial and community facilities) (Solomon Mujuru Road, Harare Drive, Richwell Avenue and Sherwood Drive Harare)”, read the agenda in part.

The chairman of the environmental management committee, Clr Tendai Matafi, said yesterday that agenda generation was the duty of technocrats.

“As a committee, we check whether the whole process is in order. We then recommend that the Ministry use Section 43(3) of the Town Councils Act. It is the Minister of Local Authorities, through regional planning, who gives the green light or cancels.

“Urban planning issues are the responsibility of urban planners. The article must be accompanied by the circulations of the departments which also have technocrats.

“The Environment Management Agency is also a player in this matrix to confirm the issue of wetlands and soil texture,” he said.

Sherwood was the main golf course in the Mabelreign and Meyrick Park areas with an active membership.

Vandalism of fences and other equipment in the 2000s was a problem, with the council doing little to protect the area.

The golf club was created as an amenity for the suburbs and surrounding areas and like many city golf clubs it is a wet area.

If plans to convert the Warren Hills Golf Club into stands go ahead, its transformation into a world-class golf facility will also suffer a major setback.

The golf course is currently in poor condition compared to nearly two decades ago and needs work but is considered a permanent amenity for the benefit of the people of Harare.

Michael C. Ford