It has been way over a decade since the sore sight called the Old Trade Fair in Manzini was demolished in preparation for what we now know to be a new E2 Billion Mall to be constructed.

Three years ago, Minister of Commerce, Industry & Trade, Manqoba Khumalo, launched a E2 Billion investment that he claimed will create an estimated 1 000 jobs. Nthoese Development Projects was earmarked to construct a mall at the Old Trade Fair in Manzini.

The project was said to begin in 2021. It is now two years later and nothing resembling the start. Said Minister Khumalo at the time: "We believe this investment will transform the economic landscape of the Kingdom of eSwatini. Our principal mandate as the Ministry working through EIPA is to contribute to the country's economy by attracting investment into the Kingdom."

"As a Ministry, we are working tirelessly to create an enabling environment & support for the development & growth of business in the country & to resuscitate the economy post COVID-19," the Minister was quoted saying at the time. But there is no need for another Mall in Manzini especially next to yet another disaster of a project called Riverstone Mall. You only need to walk inside the Riverstone Mall to realize it has become a painful waste of investment.

Offices are empty, there is no traffic there and franchises close as quickly as they open up. Now, add another Mall and you have two competing white elephants that will be a disaster in the making. Nthoese MD Sabelo Herbert Theledi tried to justify the project by claiming that the mall would contribute to the country's economic growth, creation of sustainable jobs, improvement to infrastructure development & empowerment of local SMMEs.

But the real economic benefit that would have jerked life to the already existing Riverstone Mall would have been bringing the bus rank to where the Old Trade Fair was. The economic spin-off of a new bus rank would have benefited even the poor vendors at the Manzini Market who are presently very far from economic activity at the centre of town.

The ruins of the remains at what used to be the old Trade Fair

The idea of a Mall was a poorly thought out project that will likely end like the new satellite bus rank in Manzini that today is an unused white elephant. "We need a new bus rank. The present one is congested and has no exit routes for those leaving town. Public transport has more than tripled since the start of the present bus rank. But the bus rank has not expanded.

It would have made a lot of sense to create a new bus rank that will be properly planned where buses, local taxis, kombis and private cars can park and have various ways to exit the town," said Musa Dlamini, a resident of Moneni, interviewed yesterday. One of the challenges facing the Manzini Bus Rank is that all public transport share the same exit points and there is no clear delineation of different public transport vehicles and no place for parking.

There is also the problem of gravel in town where some places are not tarred. An effort to contact the Manzini City Council was made but their spokesperson could not be reached.