A place to call home – The Herald

via Editorial Comment: A place to call home . . . | The Herald January 14, 2014

Some 14 years ago, Government resettled scores of families on Whitecliff Farm in Harare.

Fourteen years later, those families and many others who moved onto that settlement subsequently, face eviction.

It’s a familiar story. One of being a squatter in one’s own country.

Across the world, billions of people do not own a place that they can call their own.

That it is a situation prevailing the world over does not make it right for the case to be so here in Zimbabwe.
According to some estimates, there is a housing backlog of 1,5 million units in the country.

That effectively means there are 1,5 million families without a roof of their own. Using the average family unit as found in the last national census, there are potentially more than six million people who really do not know if tomorrow they will have shelter.

And this in a country of 13 million people. A country that boasts of diamonds, gold, platinum and countless other resources that have been discovered and continue to be discovered on almost a monthly basis.

It seems that despite our regular words of commendation for slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s social revolution, we never quite learnt the lesson that he had to teach us and all other resource-rich but “poor” countries across the world.

Yes, Gaddafi may or may not have looted oil money, but he sure did his best to ensure that everyone above the age of 18 had a place to call home. By the time he was killed, there was no homelessness to talk of in Libya.

Some might argue that Libya had more money at its disposal and a smaller population (six million) to contend with. But that does not mean we cannot at least do half of what Libya did with its natural resources for its people with our national resources for our people.

A simple fundamental that needs to be appreciated by policy-makers and implementers is that the foundation for any society is food and shelter.

There can be no gross national product to talk of if people are hungry or feel insecure because they don’t know from one day to the next if they will have somewhere safe and dignified to lay their heads or they will be staring at the stars at night.

A report by Bard Real Estate pegs the average prices for serviced high, medium and low-density land in Harare at US$25, US$18 and US$15, respectively, per square metre. The averages for Bulawayo are US$12, US$10 and US$6 respectively.

Further, complete housing units in the two cities are pegged at no less than US$12 000.
Banks and other institutions have tried to come up with housing financing but these can only go so far. After all, these are firms that are in business and want to return a profit.

So inasmuch as they may want to contribute to alleviating the housing situation, they still have to consider their obligations to shareholders, investors and employees.

This means that ultimately it is up to Government to guarantee a fair shot at living in decent lodgings.
As Pardon Gotora noted in an article published by The Herald, in colonial times it was the duty of Government to facilitate housing for people.

Of course, because of the Land Tenure Act, blacks couldn’t own immovable properties and could only be rent-paying tenants.
The idea was that blacks would return to dry, inhospitable rural areas when they stopped working for whites in urban areas or at mines. Not much has changed, except that it’s not privileged whites who the black majority are working for today.

The private sector cannot be expected to provide social housing. That is the responsibility of Government.
It is one thing to be legalistic and evict “squatters”, but it is quite another to be responsible and to come up with schemes that ensure more people have decent accommodation.



  • comment-avatar
    Mixed Race 8 years ago

    This editorial comment has valid contents taking into account that its from a government owned press with strict political influence.The editor has made serious omissions in his article.The real cause of housing problem in our country is made worse by politicians who use this as a tool for vote buying, corruption and looting. How many ministers, mps and councilors have more than 10 houses each?The poor citizens cannot get stands to build houses because these politicians grab the land for themselves so that they can exploit the masses.It pays for the politicians to have poor voters who are easy to exploit.This country has adequate resources to give all of us decent houses provided we stop this looting and corruption by those in positions of leadership eg parastatals,mining and legislators.

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    svinurai 8 years ago

    Your whole argument falls flat on the spurious statement that there are potentially more than six million people in Zimbabwe who really do not know if tomorrow they will have a shelter. Six million people is half the whole population. More than half of the population in Zim live in rural areas where most of them them do have shelter, albeit mainly inadequate and poor thatched rondavels. Of the other half in towns and farms another good half of them have shelter, probably dilapidated and overcrowded.Due to the rural-urban migration, it is in towns that people who do have shelter in the rural areas come and find themselves with no shelter and find themselves living as squatters.
    It is true though that with all this land no one should be homeless or landless in Zimbabwe.

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    Bard real estate. Humbug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Terrible editorial

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    chasura 8 years ago

    During the land reform programme why wasnt this issue resolved somewhat. The 1 point chakuti people on the waiting list from as far back as 2000 could have been allocated stands on farms around cities. The list existed before the land reform. If the land reform was really to empower the people of Zimbabwe surely some land (a lot of it) could have been allocated to city dwellers who were already on waiting list. These 1million chakuti could have been allocated stands.

    That is why some of us will always say the motive behind the land reform was not meant to empower blacks but primarily to punish the white farmers for supporting the MDC since ZPF felt let down as they had protected the white since the lancaster house conference.

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    No nothing in Zim! Is this what everyone dreamed of through the liberation war? 34 years later on and the suffering increases???

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    its high time we swallow our pride and get a white man to head our country , lets admit it, we do not have what it takes to run a country…