GOVERNMENT has given a contractor 134 hectares of land as part of payment on the barter deal involving the construction of a direct link between the city centre and Harare International Airport.
In 2008, government mandated Augur Investments to develop the Harare Airport Road as an expressway with restricted access to minimise congestion with local traffic.
The project would entail the design and construction of a direct link from Enterprise Road at its junction with Robert Mugabe. The road would fly over the National Railways of Zimbabwe marshalling yard, crossing Mukuvisi River to join the existing Airport Road in Braeside.
A representative of Augur Investments, Ken Sharpe said last week that the deal was "a unique land barter agreement in which Augur Investments get paid in the form of urban land for the work we complete on the road", adding that it's the first of its kind in the world.
The total cost of the project is over US$80 million and Sharpe said at least US$20 million had been injected into the venture. A section of the road will be commissioned this week.
"What was agreed was that as and when we have finished the construction of the road, available land parcels will be made available for us to choose from. We would mutually agree with government on the price, and it will be transferred to us," Sharpe said.
"So far we have Gunhill [which is 46 hectares] and about 90 hectares in Borrowdale," Sharpe said.
Sharpe said the land Augur would get "were mostly unzoned public open spaces and fields that had not been used or looked at for development in the last 50 years and had needed to be re-zoned and change of land use given".
This is not the first time that government has engaged into barter deals to meet "pressing" national commitments. Some years ago, government gave Libya land in return for fuel to stem the fuel crisis.
It has recieved maize from Malawi, which it later paid with fuel. The Chinese financed the construction of the Defence College along Mazowe Road in return for diamonds from Marange.
City of Harare director of engineering services, Phillip Pfukwa said they had to redesign the road, as the project encroached on properties and underground services such as water and electricity supplies.
"Yes, there have been encroachments involved... we had to go back to the drawing board to redesign the road so that where we can avoid the expenses, we avoid that to reduce the cost of the road and unnecessary disruptions," Pfukwa said.
"As for properties, we redesigned the road to avoid any need to demolish properties but encroached slightly on people's yards. Where we have done that, we have compensated residents at the going rate of land."
Sharpe said Augur had taken a risk by agreeing to invest in Zimbabwe when other foreign investors lost by adopting a wait and see attitude.