THE National Development Strategy 1, provides for accelerated and equitable development of rural communities through increased investment in the development of social and economic infrastructure. The Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities is responsible for championing the development of social infrastructure in the country.
Our Deputy News Editor Lincoln Towindo spoke to Minister Daniel Garwe on his plans for the development of rural communities.
Q: Can you give us an insight into the Government’s plan for steering accelerated development and the provision of world-class social amenities in rural communities as espoused in the National Development Strategy 1?
A: Let me start by giving you the general definition of social amenities.
Social amenities refer to the provision of schools, hospitals, clinics, sporting facilities and community halls to communities.
Basically, those are the social amenities we are looking at providing to our communities.
Rural housing and social amenities is an area that we have kind of ignored, yet Vision 2030 speaks of global development of the country — the urban as well as the rural.
Pursuant to the aspirations of Vision 2030, which say that Zimbabwe must be an upper middle-income economy by the year 2030, we are looking at what exactly the Government has to do to uplift housing and attendant social amenities in rural communities.
We are focused on the Rural District Centres (RDCs), which we want to be the towns and cities of rural communities.
We are looking at the kind of amenities and houses we have to develop in these communities and who the beneficiaries are supposed to be.
First, we are looking at the civil servants who work in rural communities — for example, the teachers, nurses and other civil servants — as beneficiaries.
The next station will be people such as businesspeople, who are in the rural communities who can afford the houses.
Then thirdly, we look at a standard housing unit that is suitable for the rural community; one that is standard, affordable, sustainable and modern.
By sustainability I am referring to a standard design that can withstand the vagaries of weather and climatic conditions.
We have a new policy thrust which says that 40 percent of all land set aside for human settlement be reserved for flats, which we are calling densification.
We are saying in RDCs we must have land set aside for flats for immediate occupation by people who live within those RDCs, including the teaching community and other civil servants scattered across that district.
We understand that when we build houses they need modern amenities like shopping centres.
What we want is to attract the PicknPays and the Spars to RDCs because there is money to be made there.
The majority of their clients drive all the way from the RDCs into urban centres to do their groceries because the small shops there are expensive.
If we bring the big supermarket chains to Goromonzi, Figtree or Gwanda, we would have created business for them and eased pressure for people who travel long distances for shopping.
The money that they would otherwise have used for their transport can add to their shopping basket, which means additional business for the supermarkets.
We are looking at ways to grow the RDCs by looking at the main economic drivers in that district.
For example, we know that in Gwanda, there is expansive cattle farming as well as gold mining.
So what we want to do is to develop these industries, including the SMEs that are there so that the RDC grows.
That is how we want to develop rural communities.
Q: What benefits do you see accruing from such an extensive development programme?
A: As you are aware, all urban areas are densely populated and as a result, we are witnessing the bursting of water and sewer pipes almost daily because of overpopulation. The cities and towns were not designed to cater for an increase in population like we have today.
From 1980, there was a huge rural-urban migration and we want to reverse that. We want to encourage urban-rural migration by providing the same services and facilities that are found in urban areas in rural areas.
We want to ensure all RDCs have a sound road network, running water, electricity, ICT facilities and a functional sewage system. This way, we will remove pressure from the services in Harare to the dormitory RDCs.
This is not only for Harare: we want to ease pressure on all urban areas by encouraging construction in rural areas. The same with social amenities, if you build a modern hotel with conference facilities in Murehwa or Binga, that will reduce pressure on conference facilities in the bigger towns.
Q: You have spoken about plans to design model settlements and houses in rural areas. What sort of models are being considered?
A: The majority of us, especially those from my generation, grew up in round huts made from poles and mud, and we want to change all that now. We are not saying let’s completely obliterate that model — no!
We will need that for tourism purposes in future. We want to have house designs that can withstand the effects of weather in the rural areas and more importantly, one that is affordable.
The way settlements are planned must be in such a way that we have areas set aside for cropping, grazing and for housing development.
This is so because when we want to develop the road network to service the whole settlement, it becomes easier because the settlement will be designed in a way that allows for it. We want to move away from the settlements we inherited from the colonial regime which were haphazardly designed.
We now want to realign ourselves with global trends. We want to have a model house with between three and four rooms, with a detached kitchen which is serviced by solar or a bio-digester for energy.
For sanitation, there is technology which we are developing now which we want to present at the highest level and once it is approved, we will roll it out. We want to transform the sewage system in our rural communities by replacing the pit latrines and in their place we have affordable flushable systems.
Q: You have explained a very expansive programme that will likely take years develop. What will be your starting point?
A: All these programmes can be undertaken concurrently. Firstly, we are going to be aligning these programmes with the National Development Strategy 1 over the next five years.
What we are going to be doing with respect to model housing is to reconfigure how people are settled in rural communities. That has already started and we are working closely with the Ministry of Lands because they are the owners of agricultural land.
They have the sophisticated machinery and instruments which we can use to ensure the designs are appropriate and ensure the programme succeeds.
The second area is the provision of modern sanitation in rural communities. There is a sanitation programme that we are going to unveil soon which is primarily targeting schools and clinics in rural communities.
The programme will introduce a new system that will turn pit latrines into flushable systems that use the existing sanitation infrastructure.
This programme can be started parallel to the model housing one. Then the issue of upgrading RDCs into rural-urban centres can start parallel to all these. So all these can be started but of course subject to availability of financial resources for some of the programmes.
For model houses, there is no Treasury appropriation required because we will have individuals upgrading their houses, with the Government only providing direction with models and designs.
The sanitation programme again is off Treasury’s budget; it’s something that the schools can fund for themselves because the technologies are affordable and cheap. Where we need funding is in the development of RDCs, where we have to attract investors to come on board.
We have to ask Treasury to give us money to develop social housing because of the low return on investment.
But if you want to get the big supermarket franchises to come to the RDCs, we have to give them land at affordable or intrinsic cost.
This is so that there is an incentive for them to come from Harare and develop in Mudzi or Uzumba.
It is now a Government policy that all land in the RDCs be serviced and titled, and that is a big attraction for private sector money because they want land with title.
So that is what we are working on now, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Lands.
Q: We have noticed, over the years, devastation that has fallen on some areas which are disaster prone. Does the Government have a plan of relocating people who have settled in disaster-prone areas?
A: The Government has already started identifying alternative areas for resettling people living in areas that are prone to natural disasters. We have people that are settled in flood-prone areas, in river basins and wetlands.
The State has taken a position and through the policy on human settlements which will be launched soon, all the people that are in wetlands and any such areas must be relocated to places that are well-planned and serviced. It is now work in progress.
There is a sub-committee that is chaired by Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga dealing with that. So people that are in flood-prone areas in Chimanimani, for example, have already been identified. Work is in progress now where modern houses that I have been talking about are being constructed for them.
Q: Going forward, what are your priorities for the year 2021?
A: We have our work cut out. We need to deal with informal and dysfunctional settlements in urban areas throughout the country, and we are already working on that.
There is need to focus on rural communities, where we need to improve the lives of people in rural communities. And in 2021 we have a number of programmes that we will be focusing on.
Like I said, our work is already cut out. We have some instances where people are settled on land that is suitable for human settlement but the people just settled there irregularly and informally.
Caledonia is a case in point. This means we need to pursue religiously the process of regularisation. For us to be able to reach the aspiration of Vision 2030, we must deal with these problems starting now.a