More than two years ago, the county government of Mombasa unveiled an ambitious 20-year Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan christened Mombasa Vision (MV) 2035, which detailed out a comprehensive planning of the port city.
Governor Hassan Ali Joho’s administration promised the plan will “transform County 001 into a vibrant world-class commercial hub by redeveloping the currently haphazardly organised city into a word class city.” Under the project launched in April 2016, an ultramodern Mombasa smart city was envisioned. Graphics demonstrated a departure from the current city clogged with shambolic informal settlements, with artists’ impressions depicting a bright future for a beautiful, resort city, attracting tens of tourists annually.
Governor Joho said the ‘future’ city will be, “A vibrant economy with seamless connectivity and green transport, affordable homes, well-nurtured environment, quality living for all, endearing character and unique local identify and sustainable resource management.”
However, it was the component of affordable homes, which promised to convert Mombasa residents from perpetual tenants to homeowners, which appeared to draw the most attention as every “potential homeowner” listened to the promises with keen interest. The plan was to provide about 20,000 modern and affordable housing units for Mombasa residents to rent or purchase by end of 2019.
Joho assured the residents that 12 old and new estates, among them Khadija, Miritini, Buxton, Changamwe, Tudor, Nyerere, Mzizima, Kaa Chonjo, Likoni and Tom Mboya will be redeveloped and upgraded into modern housing units in a project to be undertaken as joint ventures.
However, more than three years down the line, Mombasa has increasingly become congested. The town continues to grapple with the same old story — an all-pervading stench emanating from mounds of decomposing garbage, with choking human and motor vehicle traffic.
The garbage-laden city has provoked criticism and mockery jibes against the county government, with some residents sarcastically poking holes in Joho’s administration for excellent designs and spectacular blueprints that are never implemented.
But the County minister for Lands Housing and Physical Planning, Edward Nyale, says the dream housing project is still on course, adding that a ground-breaking ceremony will be held before year-end. “As you know, court cases filed against this project slowed us down, but we thank God we won the case. Even though appeals are pending, we hope the courts will rule in our favour,” says Nyale.
The launch project will be in Changamwe and Mzizima estates, adjacent to Coast General Hospital. “However, the initial plan of 32,000 units has changed many times after planners and designers of the project factored in considerations, which had not been put in place initially, such as bus parks.
“In Mzizima for example, we wanted to build up to 24 storeys but after air pockets were discovered underground that could not support 24 floors, we plan to construct only 14 floors. The preliminary designs have to change… we have had to go back to zero to figure out how you can fix the other 14 floors,” the executive says.
The redevelopment project will incorporate social housing with affordable housing. Under social housing, Nyale says, the county targets those in informal settlements. “It is our wish to move some slum residents to these social houses. They may not be fancy homes, but they will at least be spacious, secure much better and the rents affordable and comparable to what they pay currently,” he says.
The affordable housing project involves construction of two to three- bedroom units for sale at pocket-friendly prices to residents compared to what is available currently in the market.
Governor Joho’s administration has, however, failed to run away from criticisms after failing to prove to Mombasa residents that it has what it takes to handle the mega project. Many residents doubt if the project could ever come to fruition since in the first five years, the county built nothing.
“As we speak, now the county cannot handle garbage disposal and the city stinks to the high heavens… there are no drainage and sewerage systems to handle dirty water. Whenever it rains, the entire town gets flooded. How then can you expect us to believe Joho has the stamina to handle such a mega project?” posed Mohammed Ismail, a businessman in Mji wa Kale.
Property dealers in Mombasa such as Swabrina Shaban believe “There is a clique of highly placed cartels within the county with an insatiable appetite for land who are targeting public properties in Mombasa in the name of redevelopment of the estates.”
“Just ask yourself, why is it that they want to start with Mzizima? Obviously, it is because that place is lucrative for land business… Mzizima is near the Ocean, next to Coast General Hospital, within the town and is surrounded by schools. They cannot say they want to redevelop it to include shopping malls and swimming pools. For what? It is clear that somebody somewhere is targeting that area,” says Shaban.
She says originally, the estates were meant to provide affordable housing for poor people. “The idea of converting the estates into ultramodern estates to edge out the less fortunate and bring in ‘the who-is-who in Mombasa” is a show of animosity,” she says.
Nyale insists the project is real and is expected to take three years. “We are organising for relocation payment for people who will be affected by the project. Those that are already existing will take one year to two years because we want to commence construction soon. On completion, the county will retain some units while others will be sold by developers,” he says.