Harare City Council to Shut Down Unsafe Buildings

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HARARE – This week, the Harare City Council will begin closing down dilapidated public buildings deemed unfit for occupation. Last month, over 200 buildings, including about 14 high-rise structures in and around Harare’s central business district, were flagged by city inspectors for issues such as poor ventilation, lack of emergency exits, and general decay.

Building owners were issued abatement orders, demanding urgent repairs or facing closure.

Harare City Council town clerk, Engineer Hosiah Chisango, stated in an interview with The Sunday Mail, “As of June 1, all buildings that did not comply with the orders will be locked up because we gave them enough grace period to present their plans. If someone failed to utilize the six weeks’ grace period to spruce up their properties, they will be locked up. We are now going on the ground to tell them that we gave them enough time. Licenses issued by the City Health Department will not be renewed until compliance is met.”

In April, the city issued 233 abatement orders to the owners of these buildings. An abatement order is a legal document requiring the recipient to take specific corrective measures to address building nuisances or violations that pose a threat to public health, safety, or the environment. Violations that prompt abatement orders include unsanitary living conditions, excessive noise pollution, untreated hazardous waste, non-compliance with building codes, and excessive air or water pollution.

Fourteen properties, including Mahachi Building, Vivandelphi Court, Stewarts & Lloyds, Dublin House, Msasa House, Bush House, Roslin House, Daventry House, and Robin House, were recently deemed entirely unfit for use. Many of these buildings date back to the colonial era.

“We started issuing abatement orders on April 11, 2024, through to the end of the month,” added Eng Chisango. “We are now entering the second phase, where there will be no negotiation because enough grace period was granted to the owners of the buildings. We will inspect how many have complied and lock up those that haven’t.”

Some building owners have already submitted renovation plans. “We have started receiving plans on what they intend to do,” said Eng Chisango. “Some want to repair; others want to paint. We specified what needed to be fixed, from toilets to stairs and other issues. Out of the 233 abatement orders issued, around 30 percent have complied and begun working on their buildings.”

The council’s actions are part of a broader effort to ensure public safety and improve the city’s infrastructure.