LAST week, President Mnangagwa launched the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy, which will guide housing and social amenities development in the country in line with the National Development Strategy. Under the programme, Government intends to facilitate the construction of 225 000 new housing units by 2025. Sunday Mail Senior Reporter, RICHARD MUPONDE (RM), spoke to National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe (DG) on the sidelines of the launch.
RM: We have just witnessed the commissioning of two blocks of flats and the launch of the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy. What is the overall thrust of this programme?
DG: As the Ministry responsible for human settlements development, our vision speaks to sustainable, affordable and modern housing and social amenities infrastructure.
This encompasses densification of settlements, adoption of cost effective and alternative building technologies and designs that are resilient to climate change and speak to modernity.
I believe we are in the right direction as we are operating within the dictates of Vision 2030.
RM: We have gathered that you are targeting to provide 225 000 low cost houses over the next four years. What is your immediate target?
DG: It is indeed our considered view that as the Ministry embarks on a concerted trajectory towards attaining its anchor target of delivering 225 000 housing units by 2025, as prescribed under the National Development Strategy 1(NDS 1), that inherent and focussed activity would contribute immensely towards realising Vision 2030.
As a country, we are faced with a myriad of challenges which include, amongst a host of others, a ballooning housing backlog, rapid urbanisation and pressure on existing infrastructure.
We have been engaging all stakeholders in order for them to participate in housing and social amenities delivery.
This is also a notable requirement in respect of the dictates of the National Development Strategy 1.
RM: Today the President commissioned two blocks of flats for junior doctors, may you explain the rationale behind this initiative?
DG: In a bid to motivate and cushion our health professionals, the Ministry is embarking on specific housing projects to accommodate our front-line health workers.
This project is one such initiative and we believe there is more to come as we strive to uphold human dignity for our civil servants, and the general public that require decent and affordable housing, which is a basic right.
RM: We also witnessed the launch of the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy. Can you outline what the policy is all about?
DG: The launch of the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy shall create a beneficial environment for all actors in order to achieve Vision 2030.
Additionally, the policy will create greater leverage for the Ministry and other stakeholders to interact with regional and international bodies that are eager to invest in human settlements development.
Given the fact that sustainable human settlements development is an engine for economic growth through various avenues such as employment creation in the construction industry, co-ordinated efforts are therefore imperative in the sector to facilitate the provision of bulk infrastructure, which is a pre-requisite for sustainable human settlements development.
Such bulk services include the provision of clean water, sanitation, roads, optic fibre cabling, storm water drainage infrastructure, to name but a few.
RM: What will happen to old settlements where this key infrastructure is lacking?
DG: In cases where infrastructure is lacking in old settlements, urban renewal/ regeneration will be our strategy of choice to improve living conditions and livelihoods.
Creation of densified smart cities will also be a priority.
The use of new technologies will ensure construction time frames are shortened to enable more units to be constructed.
Social inclusion, which implies the participation in all spheres by all concerned and affected, regardless of gender, age, race and or disability, shall be prioritised.
RM: What has motivated this urgency in improving the living conditions of millions of people in the country?
DG: The urgency of improving living conditions has been brought to the fore by Covid-19, which has devastated the lives of millions of people across the globe.
The economic environment, coupled with the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, should not push local investors away.
Private sector interventions in such cases therefore become absolutely necessary.
RM: Who will finance these projects especially housing and social amenities development?
DG: Of particular importance is the availability of finance to enable all projects to be completed.
To that end, engagements are on-going with various local and international funders who have the capacity and willingness to bankroll housing and social amenities development programmes in the country.
The ultimate objective is to encourage affordable housing projects for low-income earners.
RM: Are you satisfied with the progress you have made since coming into office?
DG: The launch of these 16 housing units for doctors marks the beginning of a great journey.
Here because of lack of space we did not build many social amenities such as recreational facilities and shopping malls.
But in other areas such as Sally Mugabe Hospital, we are building several blocks of flats, as was alluded to by His Excellency, and shopping malls as well.
We are not only focusing on hospitals but housing development throughout the country.
You realise we inherited a set up where we had individuals’ small shops, like Garwe and Sons Private Limited so on and so forth.
We are now migrating away from that kind of development.
We intend to develop proper shopping malls in Rural District Councils, like Binga, Murehwa, Mudzi, Mutoko; in fact every rural district council will have a shopping mall.
Every RDC will have blocks of flats like these ones.
Why every RDC? Because these are fast developing areas.
We need blocks of flats for civil servants domiciled there.
Sixty percent of our teaching staff is domiciled in rural areas and they need access to decent and sustainable housing.
We have got businessmen in rural communities, they also need modern and sustainable accommodation.
We also have, for the rural communities, a model house which we are going to launch very soon, which will transform rural communities.
Cabinet has already approved a waste management system for rural communities: a flushable waste management system.
We’ll be seeing, as we gravitate towards 2030, flushable toilet systems in all our rural settlements in the country.
We are doing away with pit latrines and blair toilets.
RM: We understand that the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe has embarked on a massive low cost housing development project. Can you outline how this feeds into your overall thrust of housing provision?
DG: IDBZ is a quasi-Government institution, the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe is its majority shareholder.
Whatever housing projects they have, they are collaborating with us.
We fully support them; they are basically complementing the housing delivery initiative being undertaken by central Government.
RM: Government has been encouraging Private Public Partnerships for housing development. What has the uptake been like?
DG: Thank you very much for that pertinent question.
PPPs are one of the models we are going to be pursuing in order to deliver modern housing and social amenities.
We have been engaging our private sector from the time the Ministry was created in November 2019.
We have now reached advanced stages in terms of structuring the PPPs.
A classic case is that of Smart Cities that was adopted by Cabinet on Tuesday.
The first station that we are going to have under a PPP, in terms of housing, is the Melfort Smart City.
Melfort is equidistant from Harare as well as Marondera.
We are going to develop it into a smart city, with all the attributes of a smart city, driven by ICT, green energy, modern health services, modern transport systems and a modern road system.
We want to ensure we deliver these Smart Cities to Zimbabweans at the shortest possible time.
RM: Now that the focus is on densification, does that mean we are doing away with single unit houses?
DG: In terms of the Human Settlement Policy, we are saying 40 percent of all developable land must be set aside for vertical construction.
There are several benefits, one of the benefits is saving agricultural land.
The second benefit is to cut costs on the provision of onsite and offsite infrastructure; one pipeline can serve several blocks of flats as opposed to building expansive single units.
The other benefit is, if you want to develop communities using the shortest space, geographically speaking, that is what we are trying to do.