Harare Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, says council is considering banishing privately-owned vehicles from the city centre to decongest the capital.
The move is likely to worsen the frosty relations between the local authority and motorists.
“We must admit that trying to put the traffic situation under control in Harare has not been easy. We are trying everything we can to find the answers to this menace,” he said, speaking at a recent luncheon organised by the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators.
Council is struggling to contain congestion in the central business district (CBD) which has not expanded as the city becomes more populous.
As a result, traffic jams, laced with treacherous drivers and speeding pirate taxis that have become a danger to both motorist and pedestrians, have become the order of the day.
The morning and evening rush hours are the worst.
A casual scan of the major roads funneling workers into the city centre every morning gives one a sinking feeling.
From impatient motorists cursing over the din of idling car engines and blurring horns to the gossipy morning radio talk shows forced down the ears of commuters by commuter omnibus crews, Harare, to a visitor, does not look and sound like the sunshine city it has long been touted to be.
Council first identified commuter omnibuses as the biggest culprits and established a holding bay on the outskirts of the CBD but it too has proved to be ineffective and it risks becoming a white elephant.
“We have constructed the holding bay hoping that if we push the kombis (commuter omnibuses) out of the CBD it will work at but we have since realised how difficult it is to implement the project,” Manyenyeni said. “One of the options that we are currently weighing up is that of banning private cars from parking in the CBD and concentrate them to the holding bays where they will pay reduced parking fees. This would, however, mean that we will have to construct more holding bays to cater for the vehicles.”
While motorists are likely to resist this move, it will be interesting to see how council, which is getting substantial revenue from pre-paid parking disks, will handle the issue.
According to latest figures, council is raking in up to US$500 000 per month from pre-paid parking.
Its division, City Parking and EasiPark Harare, a South African based company contracted by Harare a few years ago, brings US$260 000 and US$220 000 in parking revenue monthly.
Manyenyeni also said council was proposing equally contentious plans including the removal hundreds of loading zones and parking spots in inner Harare as well as narrowing some footpaths in the crowded city centre.
Already, plans are underway to demolish the age old popular rank, Copacabana, which is set to be transformed into a shopping mall.
“Harare has for long been lying to the world that it is an African city, but with the rate at which things are deteriorating, it is fast proving to be a true African city,” Manyenyeni said.