Government has issued Augur Investments a planning permit for the construction of a US$100 million Mall of Zimbabwe in Borrowdale. The intervention follows delays in approving the project by the Harare City Council. Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo invoked a section of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act to assume the role of the planning authority and issued the permit. He said the project was of national importance since it was tied to the funding of the construction of the Airport Road. The permit approves the conversion of an open space known as the Millennium Park for the development of a commercial office park, residential and institutional facilities. Council was delaying approving the project arguing that the land on which the mall would be built was under investigation over illegal deals. The law empowers the minister to approve projects that have national or regional implications and are in the public interest. “Council notes the powers of the Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development as provided for in section 26 as read with section 29 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act,” reads the council minutes of last Thursday. “Council notes that when the Minister exercises his powers in terms of section 26 as read with section 29 of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act, council is still obliged to carry out its town planning functions as provided in the Act.” Section 29 of the Act takes all the powers of local planning authority (Harare City Council) to consider the application for a permit or preliminary planning permission, allowing the Minister to become the local planning authority. The granting of the permit by Minister Chombo strips the city of approval powers. But council will be mandated to approve building plans and to supervise adherence to standards during construction. “City of Harare will have to ensure that other Town Planning requirements are met when the development is done,” reads part of Mrs Ncube’s legal opinion to council. Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda recently gave “thumbs up” to the project. He said the existing shopping malls in the Borrowdale area were failing to meet the expectations of the “fairly affluent residents”. “This is a significant development for Harare and Zimbabwe,” said Mr Masunda. “It will cater for the needs of surrounding upmarket suburbs of Rolfe Valley, Borrowdale West, Ballantyne Park, Chisipite, Pomona, Greystone Park and Gunhill. “At the moment there is congestion at Sam Levy’s. We need to decongest that area.” Estimates indicate that up to 4 000 people would be employed at the mall that has so far attracted big South African retailers like Pick n Pay and Mr Price.