The Sunday News
PRESIDENT Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in his wisdom, set up the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities in November 2019. The ministry is superintended over by Minister Cde Daniel Garwe.
The mandate of the ministry according to Minister Garwe is to provide affordable houses and social amenities to citizens in line with the President’s vision of achieving an upper middle-class income economy by 2030.
This vision however, cannot be achieved if we still have rural communities living in pole and dagga houses without modern water and sanitation facilities.
The informal settlements in urban areas is another hurdle to the country’s march towards vision 2030. These shall be regularised. Property ownership disputes have to be settled and sanity has to prevail in the settlements.
Minister Garwe also noted that matters of climate change and modernity were going to inform the ministry as they work on their delivery mandate where private and public partnerships would be pursued in order to unlock the value provision of affordable housing to the citizens.
Our Features Editor Vincent Gono (VG) followed up on the above and other issues in an interview with Minister Garwe (MG) whose excerpts are below.
VG: A number of communities in the country have been succumbing to natural disasters especially cyclones. Cyclone Eline, ldai and flooding in general in parts of the country such as Tsholotsho, Muzarabani and the recent one in Binga. There are concerns that some of the structures are succumbing because of the architecture — the way they are built especially those in rural areas. Is there anything that the Government is working on to correct or at least standardise the rural housing structures and probably provide materials to ensure that houses are strongly built?
MG: Climate change is reality. Its effects are there for everyone to see. As a ministry, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the structures erected in both rural and urban areas speak to climate change. Some of the decisions in this regard require legislation and other supporting instruments to ensure that all new housing developments are safe, secure and of the prescribed standards. Work has already begun on the contractor’s bill. This may take a while but this is the direction that we are taking. In the meantime, we are in the process of engaging architects and engineers through the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers. The desire is to come up with modern designs which will withstand the effects of climate change. There is need for innovations in this regard. Such designs with heaped roof and gable roof have been with us for generations. These are some of the designs which may easily give in to the effects of climate change. The time is now for our young architects and engineers to come up with beautiful and attractive designs that speak to the modernity and can withstand the effects of climate change.
VG: Are there any budgets to ensure that those that are displaced by natural disasters are catered for in time?
MG: As you are aware my ministry is just under four months old. Work is still in progress in terms of setting up the ministry’s mandate, structure and budget. Once those processes are complete, the ministry will be able to treat such matters with seriousness and urgency as they deserve. In the meantime, other Government ministries, departments and other co-operating ministries are seized with the matter.
VG: The traditional leaders have been raising concerns about housing and electricity. Some got houses built for them in the previous years while others did not. Is there anything being worked on to ensure they benefit decent houses from the Government.
MG: As a ministry, the issue of modern houses and social amenities for the traditional leaders is at the back of our minds. It is indeed, among our key deliverables. As the country gravitates towards vision 2030 of establishing an upper middle-class income economy, it is prudent for the ministry, on its part, to avail modern houses and social amenities for traditional leaders. Such a development will give an impetus to the modernisation of rural houses. Traditional leaders can do a sterling job for the Government in terms of mobilising rural communities to modernise their housing if they are practically experiencing the value of the same. For the amenities like sewer, water and electricity the ministry will have to engage and collaborate with other ministries. It is the ministry’s vision to have organised rural settlements with infrastructure that speaks to modernity. It is needful for rural communities to have running water, sewer system and renewable energy etc.
VG: In urban areas there are houses that were built under operation Garikai/ Hlalani kuhle. Some of these houses are still not complete owing to councils refusing to take ownership of the programme, what is being done about the houses some of which are suffering neglect?
MG: I am not quite sure of the houses that are said to be suffering neglect. The correct position is that the houses and stands which were churned out under the Operation Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle were allocated to needy beneficiaries under lease. The lease fees being paid by the beneficiaries towards the properties will go towards the purchase of the property. An audit of the programme has been carried out and work is in progress to come up with the true value of the stands. Once that is complete, the beneficiaries will be afforded the opportunity to purchase the properties by paying the remaining balances. In terms of the transfer of the properties to council administration, many local authorities now have the Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle stands under their purview. However, there is still outstanding work in some councils and houses under their administration.
VG: As we celebrate 40 years of independence what other milestones can we say we have achieved in the provision of housing and social amenities in the country and what is the vision going forward.
MG: At independence, the urban population was not as big as it is today. The increase in the urban population size naturally translates to an increase in the demand for urban housing. There has been steady progress towards the provision of houses and social amenities since independence. Existing suburbs were expanded, new ones were opened and block flats were constructed and commissioned. These are clear milestones in the housing delivery mandate. The role of the Government in all developments cannot be overemphasised. This is not withstanding the fact that there are a number of co-operating partners like private sector businesses which have been doing a sterling job in terms of constructing houses, for example, worker’s accommodation. As a ministry, we duly appreciate the efforts of the private sector players and other co-operating partners in the house delivery mandate.
Going forward, the ministry is working on rolling massive housing programmes in and out of the urban areas. The country’s housing waiting list is 1,3 million according to aggregated data from the country’s local authorities. This in itself is a clarion call to duty for the ministry as we are alive to the fact that we cannot walk this journey alone. It is common knowledge that the ministry does not have the kind of resources required to clear the said housing backlog. We have since started on a programme of seriously engaging private sector players like blue chip companies on the stock exchange, manufactures, banks and, building societies, parastatals, pension funds, insurance companies, mining houses etecetera. As a ministry, we may not have the quantum of financial resources required to roll out the massive housing projects but we have the land. Various development models like Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) are being explored. The idea is to come up with models that make business sense to private sector investors. Work is also in progress to expedite the issuing of the title deeds in order to give an assurance on security of investment. Investments in rural housing delivery will be leveraged with land tittle deeds in urban areas.
The other vision is to take up vertical expansion as opposed to horizontal. As a ministry we are cognisant of the fact that land is a finite resource. To get around with this problem we would want to take the route of optimally utilising available land by going to take vertical. In that regard, walk up flats for both residential and commercial purposes are quite in order. That route will also help to conserve the environment.