Old Mutual Zimbabwe Limited is probably the largest and best known company in Zimbabwe offering insurance, financial and property development services. It is a subsidiary of Old Mutual Limited which has its headquarters in South Africa. The company was founded in South Africa in 1845 and the first Old Mutual office in Zimbabwe was opened in 1902. The company has since spread throughout the region and is listed on the stock exchanges of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Namibia and London. Subsidiaries include the Central African Building Society CABS (banking), the Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (life assurance), Old Mutual Insurance Company (short term insurance), Three Anchor Investments (custodial services), Old Mutual Securities (securities), Old Mutual Investment Group (asset management and unit trusts) and Old Mutual Property Zimbabwe (real estate). Formerly known as Old Mutual Investment Group Property Investments Zimbabwe (Private) Limited, the company is now known as Old Mutual Property Zimbabwe owns and manages a number of residential, industrial and commercial buildings as well as retail shopping malls in Zimbabwe, including Nkulumane Mall in Bulawayo and in Harare the Highglen Shopping Centre, Westgate Shopping Mall, Chitungwiza Town Center, Avondale Shopping Centre, Borrowdale Brooke Shopping Centre and Eastgate Centre among others.
The Eastgate Centre is a shopping mall and office block in Harare’s CBD, located on the corner of Second Street and Robert Mugabe Road. This iconic building, designed by Harare architect Mick Pearce, was completed in 1996 and has won world wide acclaim for its pioneering design features. The building provides 5,600 sq m of retail space, 26,000 sq m of office space and parking for 450 vehicles. The building has a highly sophisticated natural cooling and ventilation system – probably the first of its kind in the world to be built on this scale. Its design makes it extremely eco-friendly and sustainable as it uses around 10 per cent of the energy of other buildings its size. Pearce has worked on similar energy saving eco-building around the world. While it is technically ground breaking and innovative the design is firmly rooted in Zimbabwe’s cultural history with references to the design of Great Zimbabwe.
These references can be found in the heavy masonry walls on the exterior of the building with a recurring chevron pattern, similar to those found at Great Zimbabwe and other heritage sites. It’s a tribute to Old Mutual’s open and forward thinking that they were prepared to invest vast sums of money in this type of design that was previously unknown in Zimbabwe. Proving that they are the leading force in property development Old Mutual have now embarked on yet another cutting edge and unique project – the Eastgate SME (Small to Medium scale Enterprises) Centre.
(See Structure and Design issue 6) The SME Centre is situated on Robert Mugabe Road between Wynne Street and Fourth Street and will be linked to the Eastgate Mall by a raised pedestrian bridge. The SME Centre, specifically designed to cater for the increasing number of vendors within the CBD, will be the first of its kind in subSaharan Africa. When completed the market will provide just less than 12,000 square meters of retail space, with around 500 small bays or shops for vendors, as well as 2,000 square metres of cold rooms and refrigeration facilities for fresh produce. Many small scale farmers and vendors of fresh produce experience substantial losses due to the lack of adequate refrigeration amenities so this will be a major boost for them.
The centre will include loading bays for produce delivered to the market, as well as adequate, secure parking space for shoppers, and it is envisioned that there will be a supermarket and restaurants and cafes. In a radical new way of thinking about markets there will also be 24 bedsit apartments available for traders coming from outside of town. The new SME Centre is not just an investment in bricks and mortar – it’s a new way of thinking about how our cities function. Old Mutual is developing the project as a way of revitalising the city centre and restoring order to the current chaotic situation. The project shows that Old Mutual is not solely driven by market forces and the need to show a profit – they are also responding to the changing nature of our economy and helping to improve peoples’ lifestyles.
Other current Old Mutual projects include a housing development in Budiriro, Harare, which will provide around 3,000 core houses on serviced stands. The houses will be easily affordable for low income earners yet still offer decent accommodation and will help to ease the current housing shortage in the city. In addition Old Mutual is making over 1,000 serviced housing stands available in Bulawayo in Pumula and Nkulumane high density suburbs. Old Mutual has a vigorous corporate social responsibility policy which sees them investing in the country’s future through initiatives in various sectors like health, education, sports development, environmental sustainability and support for the arts and culture sector.
text by Michael Nott
photos supplied by Michele Fortmann and S&D