Demolition of old buildings in Dar: Power syndicate blamed THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam A POWERFUL syndicate of politicians, senior government officials and private businessmen is reported to be behind an ongoing demolition spree that has seen dozens of historical buildings bulldozed in Dar es Salaam. And it has also been learned that a group working for the preservation of the citys history has already petitioned the government to intervene and halt the demolition squads. Members of a city-based business community say they have written to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements, urging the minister to order authorities to stop approving any more applications for demolition of old buildings and re-development of the citys central business district. The group defending the citys ancient buildings asked not to be named by THISDAY, fearing reprisals from the forces behind the demolition spree. We are dealing with a syndicate of powerful politicians and businessmen, says part of the letter. And it adds: We also strongly believe that instead of demolishing the existing buildings that are durable for another 30 to 60 years, it will be more cost effective to acquire land at presently moderate market value along both sides (one kilometre wide) of Mandela Expressway for new commercial developments, including high-rise buildings. The letter is understood to be a response to revelations by THISDAY yesterday that many of the citys ancient buildings with historical and architectural significance are in line for demolition to pave way for the construction of modern skyscrapers. According to THISDAY findings, more than 10 such buildings, structures and sites in the city centre protected under national antiquities legislation are now under direct threat from real estate developers. Scores of these buildings have already been pulled down to make way for modern structures, and officials have confirmed that more than a hundred other such buildings, structures and sites in various parts of the country are also earmarked for demolition in the name of development. In their letter entitled Construction Spree of High Rise Buildings in the City Centre and copied to President Kikwete, the members of the business chamber said such plans are in contravention of the Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act No. 8 of 1982, Section 85 (2). This legislation prohibits approval of construction of buildings which cause disfigurement of the characters of an urban area or neighbourhood. Each high-rise construction that is allowed to be built in every nook and corner of the city centre against the civic interest of the country has adverse impact and becomes irreversible for more than 100 years, the letter adds. It continues: We are already straddled with a few sorry examples of such sores which are now irreversible. What will be left will be for posterity and history to ascribe blames. Reaction in general has been angry over reports of the demolition of the historical buildings being done with the express blessing of the government. A city-based architect, Nadir Tharani, said a historical sensibility may insist on preserving such buildings instead of demolishing them. A moratorium (on the demolition of historical buildings) should be imposed�the exercise should be reviewed with a wider stakeholder input, asserted Tharani, noting that all over the world old buildings are finding new uses such as hotels or galleries. He said old buildings are being preserved in Europe, the United States, Damascus and even China as essential tourist attractions. A city is not made up of apartments and offices only. There are other uses which are essential to a vibrant city life, said Tharani. Remember, we are talking of a very small area of the city of Dar es Salaam. Those who need to demolish in order to build can go to Tabata, Tandale, Kinondoni and parts of Temeke, he added. Another Dar es Salaam resident who asked to remain anonymous because he works closely with the government argued yesterday that no development is worth the demolition of historical buildings because they are priceless. He brushed aside a statement once made by the then minister for lands, housing and human settlements, John Magufuli, who blessed the demolition exercise saying it would provide room for more office accommodation in the citys central business district. He noted that one historical building along Samora Avenue was at one time used as office accommodation for the first Angolan president, Augustino Neto. Also, the Tanzania Publishing House also situated along Samora Avenue was once a meeting place for people like Neto, the late Samora Machel of Mozambique, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, he further pointed out. He called for authorities to give such buildings in Dar es Salaam and other historical towns on the Mainland the same status as Zanzibars Stone Town. The Antiquities Act provides for the preservation and protection of sites and articles of archaeological, historical or natural interest in the country, amongst other things. According to the legislation, a building, site or structure is declared a conservation area when it is a valuable national heritage, contains a homogeneous group of monuments, or has valuable national heritage for its historical, architectural, social or cultural value.