Zimbabwe: Scramble to Finish 'Hall of Shame'

ZANU PF yesterday enlisted the services of its youths to assist in a desperate attempt to put final touches to the Gweru Convention Centre ahead of the official opening of its annual conference to be addressed by party leader, President Robert Mugabe today.

An inspection in loco by the Independent yesterday afternoon saw former labour minister July Moyo sweating to make sure the venue is ready by the time Mugabe and his entourage arrive as the party has promised.

The youths were divided into groups under the supervision of senior party leaders. However, their desperate efforts were disturbed by the heavy rains which fell in the city yesterday.

The conference centre, dubbed the "Hall of Shame", which the party started building two months ago failed to meet its targeted 5 000 seats by 500, with some offices still incomplete.

Speaking at the venue, Zanu PF Midlands provincial vice-chairman Larry Mavima said: "We are working 24 hours. Everyone is working round the clock to get the venue ready. The construction work has been done and now we are laying carpets in the conference room and we expect to finish at 9pm."

Mavima said contrary to the conference centre being labelled a "Hall of Shame" by some sections of the media, the facility was actually a "Hall of Fame" because "we did this in two and a half months".

He dismissed reports the location of the conference centre was a farm grabbed from a white farmer, saying "this farm was acquired by government through legal channels seven years ago. The farm had been derelict for six years".

Meanwhile, Mavhima said plans were underway to construct a 300-room five-star hotel at the same location and turn the development into a tourist attraction.

He said the project was a culmination of efforts by the Midlands Development Association Board of Trustees that comprises business people, civic organisations and Zanu PF leaders.

"There have been reports that the structure will be a white elephant after the conference but they said the same about the Harare International Conference Centre and the National Sports Stadium."

He also dismissed claims by some business people from the Midlands that they did not benefit from the construction of the conference centre as "nonsensical".

Meanwhile, reports continue to swirl that the conference centre was a project by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to boost his image as he positions himself to succeed Mugabe.

But Mavhima said: "This structure is for the people of the Midlands and Zimbabwe, not individuals. It is for the party and has nothing to do with the political leadership."

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