ROMAN architect Marcus Vitruvious wrote a book early in the first century De Architecturea, which is a must-read for any student of architecture wishing to master the art and science of designing buildings.
In that book, the famed architect says a good building is anchored on three principles: firmitas, utilitas and venustas, which translates into durability, utility and beauty.
To those who appreciate architectural heritage, the beauty of a building delights people and raises their spirits.
Unfortunately, in recent years, Harare's Central Business District has seen the construction of structures that falters on all the three principles enunciated by the great Vitruvious.
But in their lack of imagination and disregard of the sense of beauty that is essential in raising people's spirits, the designers of the myriad of structures in Harare's city centre have created a time bomb waiting to explode on Harare residents and visitors alike.
Built in violation of the city's by laws, the buildings are symbols of a disaster waiting to happen as they are at the risk of collapse.
Some owners of the buildings defied all the rules of architecture and are now applying for their structures to be regularised, raising fears that some corrupt elements in council may end up giving a nod to some of the defective buildings, a decision that maybe costly, as human life can be lost if they collapse.
Some causes of building failure that the structures are at risk of include use of sub-standard material; improper design; incompetent contractors; poor town planning development monitoring process and non-compliance with specifications.
As a result of this, so many buildings collapse in Nigeria, with the collapse of a church building in April this year, killing 22 people.
Chairperson of the Harare Environmental Management Committee, councillor Stewart Mutizwa, said political interference has compounded matters as council is unable to make binding decisions. Sometimes town planning authorities are not able to carry their functions unfettered.
"This is a political issue. If you go to Bulawayo, they don't do that, they follow rules. There is too much politics in Harare and lawlessness," said Mutizwa.
"We do not want such buildings. They would collapse. If you look at buildings like Rowan Martin, Trafalgar Court and Cleveland, they were built before we were born and they are still standing because things were done properly."
Mutizwa said members of his committee would sit next month to deliberate on these issues. But the fact that council has taken so long to take up decisive action on these matters indicate that all is not well at Town House with some illegal structures being erected right under its nose.
According to the Harare Residents Trust, the buck stops with the City's Department of Urban Planning Services, adding that the department was largely responsible for the mess in Harare.
The Trust said corruption within the municipality could not be ruled out as one of the factors behind the sub standard structures.
"The culture is creeping in due to the scourge of corruption. Someone in some office is benefiting from such developments. Given this, there is lack of supervision and monitoring of construction initiatives, compromising on quality. The danger is that you will soon hear of some sub-standard buildings collapsing as has happened in some African countries and Asian countries," said the Trust.
But besides the possible cost to human life, there is also a financial angle to the matter.
Economic commentator, Eric Bloch, said the city is losing in terms of possible licenses and other rates that could have filtered into its coffers had owners of the illegal buildings put their house in order.
Council has declined to grant some building owners certificates of occupation, but they have remained undeterred and opened retail outlets, which in turn are also not registered, denying the authorities of possible revenue.
"There are also health and security services concerns. Council should demolish the structures," said Bloch.
Local government expert, Percy Toriro, said city planning regulations provide for the regularisations of illegal structures when owners approach council with a view to comply with the law.
He said the worst case scenario of such a process could be the demolition of the illegal buildings.
Toriro added that generally in Zimbabwe, the approving of building plans must be done within three months.
He said one of the factors that might see the outright demolition of a structure is when it is located in a wrong zone such as a factory in a residential area and not at industrial sites.
The local government expert added that a building that has two storeys or more must be supervised at every stage by a certified structural engineer to, among other things, ensure that it would withstand load.
But in case of disaster, who would be liable?
"The element of negligence is two-fold. The authorities and the engineer concerned. The engineer concerned when he/she signs vouching for its fitness would be taking responsibility. Culpability would be on both parties," said Toriro.