Leonard Ncube and Lingani Nyika
The thrust of ensuring low cost housing for low income earners is taking shape, with National Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe launching a housing project that will see over 2 000 home-seekers benefiting in Hwange.
The country’s vision for an upper middle income economy by year 2030 as articulated by President Mnangagwa entails housing provision for citizens, among other social amenities, and provision of housing stands to home-seekers is a giant step towards the goal.
The country’s national housing backlog stands at more than 1,2 million while in Hwange the waiting list has in excess of 11 000 people.
Minister Garwe visited the Empumalanga West housing scheme in Hwange Local Board (HLB) last week where he ordered the project consultant to mobilise the contractor back on site and restart the project which stalled six years ago because of financial challenges.
HLD initiated the project in 2014 consisting of 2 145 stands measuring 200 square metres each and targeting housing for low income earners.
It was initially funded by beneficiaries who contributed US$50 per month towards purchase of the stands and servicing.
A majority of the beneficiaries experienced challenges in paying monthly subscriptions and council defaulted in paying the contractors resulting in the project stalling.
The Local Board then in 2017 partnered with the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) to fund the project on an arrangement where the development bank would service the area and allocate serviced stands to deserving beneficiaries.
The country’s monetary environment affected the partnership when the exchange rate between the United States dollar and RTGS was adjusted by Treasury, and Government took over the project to ensure it is revived.
Phase 1 had been completed with water reticulation at 90 percent and sewer at 50 percent while roads had been cleared but yet to be constructed when the project stalled.
Government now wants the contractor to move back on site and resume civil works on the project located between Empumalanga and Chibondo Hill, north-east of Hwange town.
Minister Garwe, however, warned the project implementers to avoid constructing structures in wetlands and maintain the required 30 metres distance from water sources.
This comes as about 400 home seekers had already moved on site and constructed houses even on wetlands.
“The contractor should mobilise and go back on site to restart the project.
Government is prepared and Treasury set aside some money to fund the project as we have taken over from IDBZ,” said Minister Garwe.
“What we are basically going to do is to ensure the onsite/offsite infrastructure is completed before any buildings are constructed in terms of the human settlement policy which can be out any time soon depending on President Mnangagwa’s schedule.”
Minister Garwe said Government is undertaking similar projects countrywide, one of them being in Mahombekombe in Kariba where some people have to be relocated from powerlines.
The Hwange project includes rehabilitation of sewer works which had been lying idle for 20 years and Government has instructed engineers to combine its design to the main project.
With regards to wetlands, Minister Garwe said: “What we want to avoid are floods.
We don’t want to give people stands when there is going to be a policy to protect wetlands.
We might have to remove all developments on wetlands and areas set aside for social amenities.
As consultants you must now start educating people about flats because we are going the flats way as we don’t want to end up encroaching into wildlife area.”
The wetlands policy masterplan is being done by the Environmental Management Agency and will guide local authorities and public on handling sensitive ecological areas.
The project consultant Engineer Fumai Bhiza from Chisipo Consulting Engineers however said: “Considering the 30-metre distance will create problems for the project, we might end up with a few stands because of the terrain here.
Some beneficiaries have also already moved on site and started building hence we need to re-scope the project so that we come up to with quantum of remedial work.”
HLB chairman Mr Nqobile Mabhena said the housing project will reduce the housing backlog currently more than 11 000 and contribute towards attainment of the country’s vision for an upper middle income by year 2030.