Kuda Bwititi

At least 200 000 new houses will be constructed by 2023, while apartments that are unfit for human habitation will be rebuilt and informal settlements revamped as part of a raft of measures to overhaul Zimbabwe’s housing sector.

This dovetails with the country’s vision to become an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

Civil servants and low-income earners are expected to benefit immensely from the projects, with construction of modern apartments for nurses set to start at all general hospitals by January next year. Furthermore, Government has identified apartments in Kariba, Hwange and Victoria Falls, which will undergo immediate facelift or reconstruction starting soon.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe said the transformation of the housing sector will be anchored on a new housing policy that should be completed by the end of next month. He said the plan to construct 200 000 new houses by 2023 is already taking shape, with some of the projects in progress.

“What we now have is the National Housing Delivery Programme. We are hoping that all things being equal we should churn out 200 000 houses by 2023. We will continue to revise the figures, as we stand guided by the operating environment,” said Minister Garwe.

“There are so many projects that are not only exciting but futuristic. We have created a relationship with the private sector, in line with what the President has advocated for, a private sector driven economy. We have started doing that and we now have the banking community working with us to ensure that housing delivery becomes a success.”

On new health workers apartments, Minister Garwe said the programme will commence with flats, whose construction will start by January next year at Parirenyatwa, Sally Mugabe, Mpilo and UBH hospitals. The same model will also be applied to other civil servants countrywide. The Minister said in Hwange, Government will refurbish 7 000 houses while in Victoria Falls, some old houses that are now deemed dangerous for human habitation will be renovated.

IN November last year, President Mnangagwa created the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities to deliver affordable and decent housing to the nation in line with Vision 2030. Last week, The Sunday Mail’s Kuda Bwititi spoke to Minister Daniel Garwe on progress that has been made in achieving housing delivery to date. Below are excerpts of that interview.

***

Q: Tell us about your journey in the construction industry.

A: I was a chartered builder for 20 years and I worked as a quantity surveyor for 30 years. I have been involved in many building projects and I can safely say that I have an imprint in one or more construction projects in each of the country’s 10 provinces. My experience extends to civil engineering, architecture as well as interior decor. So I can safely say that this industry is my forte. I served as President of the Construction Industry Federation of Zimbabwe (CIFOS-2010-2012), President of the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association (2006-2008) and board member of the African Federation for Construction Contractor’s Associations (AFCCA).

Q: What progress has your ministry made to date?

A: We are now in the process of developing the Human Settlements Policy, which should be ready by the end of October. What we have decided to do is that while we are developing the holistic policy, we can start working on several stations that feed into this holistic policy. I will give you a list of some of the areas where we are embarking on urban renewal in different parts of the country. One example is Kariba where we want to relocate people that have been living in Mahombekombe for almost 60 years to a much better place. The houses are in a bad state, the people use communal toilets with one toilet for up to 200 people and that is not acceptable.

There are about 100 vulnerable groups — like child-headed families and elderly people, and we want the President to hand over the new houses to them. The Mahombekombe Houses are sitting under a 330KV Powerline and the effect of radioactive material can affect people’s mental capacities. We want to move these people to an area called Kasese where we are developing the roads as well as sewer and water rehabilitation in conjunction with the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe.

Q: When is the Mahombekombe project going to start?

A: Before the end of this month our contractors would have moved on site to start construction of the actual houses.

Q: Which other areas are earmarked for urban renewal?

A: In Victoria Falls, we have identified some old Government houses that are now dangerous for human habitation, so we are working on the model to either demolish them or refurbish them. In Hwange, there are about 7 000 houses that do not have water or electricity. This does not speak to Vision 2030 as pronounced by the President. The houses fall under Hwange Colliery Company, which approached us. We are developing a model with financial institutions who are interested in partnering with us to run that project.

Q: What other aspects of the Human Settlements Policy are you implementing?

A: The other policy station is the regularisation of informal settlements. Every urban area is seized with that challenge.

We have identified a project in Melfort where people had started building timber huts and pit latrines. We said no, Melfort is along the Harare-Mutare highway, which makes it a development corridor that must be done seamlessly.

We approached those behind the project, they understood our policy thrust and we have identified financiers for the rehabilitation programme. The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is coming in to finance onsite infrastructure, National Building Society (NBS) will provide user friendly mortgage facilities for the people that are there. We have some pension funds that have approached us to provide funding for the water treatment plant and sewer treatment plant. Melfort has become a strategic hub in terms of developing such models because there is a lot of interest from financiers and banks to do it properly. We say no to pit-latrine house projects.

Q: Melfort has issues with land barons . . .

A: Melfort is a farm that fell under the Ministry of Local Government. Some youths lawfully applied for acquisition of that land. This was a policy position by the Government to provide land for the youth. However, what happened was that there was a threat of the re-emergence of land barons, and people would charge administrative fees and get stand owners to build pit latrines. We advised them that this does not work and the land does not need to benefit a few people that have got signatures of the land. We said it should be for everyone who can afford. My Ministry’s role is to provide project management services and attract financial houses that are interested in partnering developers. That is why we now have NSSA and NBS on board and some pension funds who want to participate. My involvement is only to manage development processes and implement the policy pronouncement of sanitising illegal settlements with other Ministries such as that of State for Provincial Affairs, and Transport and Infrastructure Development.

Q: How do you intend to deal with land barons?

A: The idea is to kill the idea of land barons completely. This involves sanitisation of illegal settlements. The President is on record underlining this point, so we are implementing it. Phase One of Melfort has plus or minus 1 400 stands and social amenities such as schools, hospitals and a shopping mall. We have mobilised financial resources, locally and in Africa. This is how we want to sanitise illegal settlements.

Q: What is the plan for rural areas?

A: In terms of rural housing and social amenities, we have approached several rural development councils (RDCs) to set up walk-up flats. We have visited almost all the provinces for meetings with RDCs to tell them of the trajectory that we are taking. For example, some of these RDCs that are already working on this are Goromonzi, where we are developing flats at Juru Growth Point. There is another project for development of flats at Melfort and Murewa, where the land has been identified and processes are underway.

Q: Do you have a specific number of housing units targeted for construction?

A: In 2018, there was Command Housing that targeted 470 000 housing units. What we now have is the National Housing Delivery Programme but this has been affected by a number of factors including emergencies or disasters such as Covid-19, Cyclone Idai and droughts. A revision downwards has been made in terms of target outputs. We are hoping that all things being equal we should churn out 200 000 houses by 2023. We will continue to revise the figures, as we stand guided by the operating environment.

Q: Are there specific projects that are up and running under that plan?

A: There are so many projects that are not only exciting but futuristic. We have created a relationship with the private sector, in line with what the President has advocated for, a private sector driven economy. We have started doing that and we now have the banking community working with us to ensure that housing delivery becomes a success. The Urban Development Corporation (UDCORP) is currently working on developing plus or minus 2 600 stands in Norton. We have sourced funding for them to finish onsite and off-site infrastructure.

Another example is the Chinhoyi Development Corridor, where we have NMB, NBS and Metbank. One of the banks has built 207 housing units, ready.

Another exciting development is that through the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, the majority of banks have signed up to support housing delivery programmes and regularisation of informal settlements. We are committed to providing accommodation for our health workers. We will provide houses under three phases, for the general hospitals in Phase One, provincial hospitals in Phase Two and district hospitals in Phase Three.

At Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe Hospitals in Harare as well as Mpilo and UBH in Bulawayo, there is land that we have identified for construction of flats for our health workers. We want to operationalise Phase One by January, because currently we are doing site plans and mobilising financial resources. We are also hoping to ride on Pfumvudza so that every Pfumvudza farm after ensuring food security, sending grain to the GMB, we want farmers to be in a position to set aside a few dollars and build houses that speak to vision 2030. This is a concept that we are developing.

Q: What is your message to lowly paid workers out there who dream of owning houses?

A: One of the key deliverables of the Ministry is to provide affordable housing under the aspect of social housing. A number of financial institutions, both local and regional have offered us financial packages that will facilitate affordable housing. We are actually looking at areas where we can get land for such projects. We have civil servants at heart as well as any other Zimbabwean who is interested in these schemes.

There is a fund from Shelter Afrique and as a Ministry we have played a facilitator role for a number of banks that have applied for the funds. The knowledge I have is that some of these banks have qualified for the lines of credit. So it is through such funding that we can build long term housing projects that even lowly paid workers can afford to pay through mortgage schemes.

Government has been availing land to private businesses with the requisite financial muscle under public private partnerships.