Terracotta Trading (Private) Limited, the South African property developer that was contracted to develop Egodini Mall has once again missed its deadline to hand over the taxi rank and informal traders’ stalls to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) by end of April.
Completion of these structures is now expected at the end of August.
“Obviously you might add a week or two or more depending on the council which has to do final inspections and certification so that the public can actually occupy the area,” said Terracotta Director, Thulani Moyo during a tour of the construction site on Thursday.
“Since the council is here, I don’t think it would take much longer as we are working with them while they are doing their inspection step by step.”
Although BCC concedes that the multi-million dollar Egodini project is “very much behind schedule,” the local authority said it had to be realistic and be patient considering the challenges raised by the contractor.
Moyo lamented how the lack of a concrete batching plant in Bulawayo and steel importation challenges caused delays.
“The main issue for us is that we took a little bit of time trying to resolve the issue of the base layers as a certain strength was required, we played with a few formulas, remember we want to make sure this lasts for a very long time,” he said.
“There was a delay in the procurement of steel, which we were importing and from a South African perspective, it was challenging to find steel as they had their own backlogs.”
A sticking issue going forward was the speed at which concrete can be mixed and cast on the ground, Moyo said, noting they were looking for a batching plant that could mix more concrete at one go.
He explained that a mixer could only make few quantities of concrete while casting concrete took about 14 days to set
“Unfortunately, in Bulawayo, we did not find a batching plant. The only one is in Harare and we were trying to find ways so at the moment we have one concrete mixer to mix. This dictates the pace at which we can cast concrete. If we had a batching plant it would help us have a faster pace,” said the contractor.
“Initially we had two concrete mixers, so normally both would be operating at the same time but the other team is off.”
Moyo said they wanted to finish the taxi rank first and then move on to informal trader stalls, however, the challenge was the mixing of concrete.
The informal trader stalls are supposed to accommodate over a thousand vendors.
So far, the developer has laid three out of a total of 60 rows of aisles, where each isle accommodates 20 stalls for informal traders.
“The speed in which this exercise moves is determined by the rate at which we can produce that concrete, as that has an impact on the timetable. This is the issue we are trying to control and resolve. Does the solution involve bringing another concrete mixer? I am not too sure as safety issues are involved and we have to work with those out with the service provider. Once you’ve done the concrete bases, we can then do brickwork.”
The contractor noted that from a commercial viewpoint, the taxi rank must be the first to be completed.
“Egodini is designed in such a way that people will be moving up and down, so as people are filtering through the system, every informal trader must get maximum exposure from the traffic. You drop off from the taxi rank and pass through the informal trader stalls before moving into town,” Moyo said.
One of the project shareholders, Jason McCormick, whose family are property moguls in South Africa, said it was pleasing that materials had now been fully procured as that “had proved to be of a challenge.”
“Steel is coming out in the next two weeks, so on the material side we should not have many challenges and on the operation side we are trying to get highest throughput in terms of cubic metres per day in concrete that we can then cast. This is why we called out for further bricklayers to help,” he said.
“We are getting to a point in the project where there’s a lot of opportunities for people to work and remember machines were working up until now. Now the work is more finicky and labour intensive but certainly more beneficial to the people and local economy. The wage bill should go up substantially and for me, it’s always exciting when you get to a stage like this as we are now on ground zero and can now start building. Digging that rock cliff was a huge challenge.”
Bulawayo Town Clerk, Christopher Dube, said although Terracotta had missed their deadline it was understandable why there were project delays.
“The project is very much behind schedule but from the explanation given in terms of the project procedures and that from time to time we are briefed as a local authority on the challenges that are there, we are convinced for sure these challenges are there and realistic,” he said.
“We understand it and from the look of things with what they are saying now, we may have wanted this to be done in June or completed yesterday or even them promising to do it tomorrow but let’s be realistic. I think the end of August is realistic so that when we go back to the residents, let’s give them something which is possible not to just tell them tomorrow when it is not otherwise, we will have so many explanations. Realistically, let’s look at the end of August.”