18 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Architects Demand Order

ARCHITECTS in Zimbabwe are unhappy with the lack of co-operation from government departments and local authorities in enforcing laws to ensure that unqualified people and foreigners do not undertake work that, by law, is the preserve of locally registered practitioners.

Institute of Architects of Zimbabwe president, Arthur Matondo, told the Financial Gazette's Property News recently that they were not impressed with the level of co-operation they were getting from various arms of government and urban authorities when it came to ensuring that the provisions of the Architects Act were complied with when construction projects were taking place.

Matondo said as a result of this, a number of bogus architects as well as architects from outside the country were doing some work earmarked for qualified architects who are registered in Zimbabwe.

"Over the years there have been a number of projects that should be done by our members (but) that have been done by foreigners. When this happens, it is not just our members that lose, but government as well because these people do not pay any taxes," Matondo said.

"The VAT (Value Added Tax) we pay on plans is heavy but we get projects like Long Chen Plaza, the Defence College, and of late the Pepsi bottling plant being erected with ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) snoozing. How much VAT was collected on plan fees on projects of that magnitude?" Matondo asked.

Long Chen Plaza, a shopping centre in Harare's Belvedere suburb, is owned by a Chinese firm that erected the massive complex on a wetland on which Harare's town planners never wanted development to take place.

Matondo said all the plans for the complex where done by Chinese architect, the same as the Zimbabwe Defence College that the Chinese built for the Government of Zimbabwe.

The Chinese also built the Golden Peacock Hotel in Mutare.

Work has already started on the US$30 million Pepsi complex along Simon Mazorodze Road in Harare with the plans for the complex having been drawn by foreign architects, according to Matondo.

The architects' body has since written to the City of Harare demanding an explanation why the project's building plans were approved when they did not comply with the requirements of the law.

Whenever foreign architects come to do work in the country, they are supposed to get temporary registration and work in partnership with a registered local practice, which is not happening in most projects promoted by foreign investors, he said.

Matondo said whenever they try to get the different government departments such as ZIMRA and the police to assist in stopping the projects that do not comply with the provisions of the Architects Act, the response has not always been positive.

"They don't talk to us and we are never given resources to enforce our Act yet the greatest investment by Zimbabweans in and outside the country is infrastructure. It is so frustrating because sometimes when you try to enforce the law, you end up being individually targeted, but I can tell you that the money that ZIMRA misses from these projects is massive yet they are looking for US$10 tax from hairdressers," Matondo added.

Architects charge a fee of six percent of a new project's value, and nine percent for refurbishments and extensions.

It is from these fees that ZIMRA collects its 15 percent VAT.

For example, for a project like the US$45 million new Parliament, whose plans were done by Pantic Architects, a local architectural practice, six percent of the project's value is paid to the architects, 15 percent of which becomes due to ZIMRA.

Matondo said the other headache they had was that of unqualified architects.

These include building technicians and draughtsmen, among others, who masquerade as architects and doing work reserved for bona fide practitioners.

He said apart from putting undue competition on registered practitioners; they were responsible for substandard structures that are developed in the country, as they h do not comply with standards. As part of efforts to ensure compliance, in 2015, the architects agreed with the City of Harare that the local authority would stop accepting -- for processing and approval -- building plans for structures statutorily earmarked for qualified and registered architects done by people who are not architects. There are nine building developments that are exempted from architecturally-designed plans.

These include single storey private houses, swimming pools, saunas, small factories, semi-permanent structures on farms and mines, rural schools as well as places of worship.

The exemption does not apply to all high-rise buildings, large factories and commercial buildings, as well as cluster houses, as these are strictly the preserve of architects.

All architects are registered with the Architects Council of Zimbabwe.

The membership is renewed yearly depending on compliance with the laws of the profession.


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