MINISTERS have approved plans to spruce-up the old homes of prominent pre-independence nationalists to promote township tourism.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti is expected to allocate funds for the project – which could run into millions of dollars – in his 2013 budget due to be announced on November 15.
The properties due a facelift include houses used by the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, former ZANU leader Herbert Chitepo, ZANU founder Enos Nkala and President Robert Mugabe in Harare’s Highfield suburb.
The project is inspired by township tourism which has been successfully promoted in South Africa, with several homes of anti-apartheid icons in Soweto being converted to tourist sites.
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, opening the 2013 Sanganani/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair in Harare on Wednesday, said the plan had sailed through cabinet on Tuesday with cross-party support.
“As part of the efforts to promote township tourism, we have proposed to raise the status of the houses which housed our early nationalist leaders into national heritage sites,” Mzembi said.
“We will be pushing the issue to be allocated funds in the 2013 national budget as these houses need to be enshrined for posterity. What has happened in South Africa’s old suburb of Soweto is our benchmark and we would want to see Highfield become like that.”
Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa, said Mzembi, had stated during Cabinet that his ministry would equip the houses with the latest information technology equipment.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said Mzembi’s proposal demonstrated the government’s skewed priorities.
“It’s a clear lack of agenda and a case of misplaced priorities," he said. "How can they prioritise renovating those houses when the economy is bleeding with an unemployment rate of over 80%, when universities have no ablution facilities?”
Finance Minister Biti was on a regional tour recently begging Zimbabwe’s neighbours to advance loans of up to US$400 million as he bids to bridge a deficit from his last budget.