The Sunday Mail
Government has embarked on an expansive housing development programme to reduce the national backlog, which stands at 1,5 million units. Last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy, a medium-term programme envisaged to drive national housing development. The Sunday Mail’s TANYARADZWA RUSIKE (TR) spoke to the Deputy Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Yeukai Simbanegavi (YS), who outlined Government’s plans.
TR: Can you outline your ministry’s role in facilitating the attainment of Vision 2030?
YS: Shelter is a basic human right. As such, Government is obliged to ensure that every citizen has access to adequate shelter. Vision 2030 envisages driving the economy “towards a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society by 2030”.
Without adequate shelter, this vision will not be achieved as the availability of shelter determines a nation’s level of development.
Achievement of Vision 2030 requires contribution from all sectors of the economy and the human settlements sector is not an exception.
The country is facing a national housing backlog of 1,5 million housing units.
The ministry is taking advantage of the economic stabilisation which the country has attained to explore various models to deliver housing and social amenities infrastructure.
TR: Housing development is a key pillar of the National Development Strategy 1; can you outline the various programmes Government is implementing to deliver decent and affordable housing?
YS: Housing delivery is one of the 14 national priorities under NDS1.
The key result area for the housing thematic area is the delivery of affordable and quality settlements in urban and rural areas.
As a ministry, we are working tirelessly towards reducing the housing waiting lists and improving services in settlements.
We are seized with the delivery of affordable and quality settlements in urban and rural areas with the hope of having improved access to affordable and quality housing and social amenities.
Under the NDS1, we have a national target of 220 000 housing units by 2025.
This will be achieved collectively by Government, the private sector and individuals working together to make this an achievable feat. Our statistics comprise efforts by the Government, development partners, financial institutions, local authorities, developers and all other entities within the built environment. Currently, the ministry is constructing blocks of flats in Dzivarasekwa, Harare; Senga, Gweru; and Dombotombo, Marondera.
We are also servicing stands in Kasese in Chinhoyi and Empumalanga in Hwange.
In Binga, we are also constructing core houses. In Lupane, we are providing requisite infrastructure for Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle projects; in Beitbridge, we are now working on the completion of residential flats.
TR: Government has made the development of smart cities a priority. What does the concept of smart cities entail and what are the authorities doing to aid the development of such cities?
YS: The smart city concept, which the Government has adopted, maps the way forward as we promote urban development which provides core infrastructure and gives a decent quality of life to Zimbabweans within a clean and sustainable environment while applying smart solutions.
It is a concept which proposes that human settlements should be places where people can live, work and play in.
We view cities as places meant for economic activity to thrive while functioning within a network of supporting economic activities. We are taking action to establish smart cities, earmarking Melfort in Mashonaland East Province, Chirundu in Mashonaland West Province and Figtree in Matabeleland South Province.
These will be areas where people can live, work and play in an environment supported by data collection for efficient service provision and continual improvement of offered facilities. The key pillars will be smart buildings, smart energy, smart health, smart mobility and public safety.
Local authorities are being directed through the National Human Settlements Policy and various Cabinet decisions to embrace the smart city concept in all new housing developments in their areas of jurisdiction.
Local authorities are being guided to ensure that communities have adequate fully functional water supply and sewer reticulation systems before residents settle in and that sustainable sources of energy are promoted.
They are also being encouraged to invest directly or through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in robust ICT systems, health and education facilities.
The ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Environment, Tourism, Climate Change and Hospitality Industry; the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development; and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in a bid to embrace the whole-of-Government approach to eradicate the practice of settling in wetlands.
The ministry was part of the development of the Wetlands Policy and Wetlands Map, which were put in place to protect wetlands.
The National Human Settlements Policy also prohibits human settlements in areas designated as wetlands.
TR: The Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy was launched sometime last year. Can you outline what this policy entails and how far Government has gone in implementing it?
YS: The guiding blueprint for ministry programming is the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy.
The new policy supersedes the National Housing Policy of 2012 and addresses several shortcomings inherent in the preceding policy. The new policy takes into cognisance the following issues which were not addressed in the old policy.
The inclusion of sustainable human settlements (smart settlements), regularisation, sanitisation of informal settlements, urban renewal and regeneration.
And a framework to deal with displacements, relocations and compensations in the event of natural disasters, among other things. The ministry is also considering mapping the way for an enabling Act to fully operationalise the tenets within the policy.
TR: Housing development on wetlands has blighted some urban jurisdictions for years now.
What is Government doing now to ensure that there is no future housing development on wetlands and to regularise settlements already built on wetlands?
YS: We continue to educate home-seekers on the dangers of building on wetlands.
However, in instances where settlements have been set up on wetlands, the Government commits to regularise such settlements.
A regularisation protocol will be developed to standardise the process.
Displacements without negotiated alternatives will be a last resort and will be conducted in adherence with the Constitution and relevant laws.
Regularisation as a strategy will unlock value in the properties, restore human dignity as well as increase the national housing stock.
TR: For years, land barons have duped thousands of homeowners by illicitly selling land that belongs to the State. What is Government doing to bring these culprits to book?
YS: The long arm of the law will catch up with anyone found on the wrong side.
However, we continue to educate the public to be wary of unscrupulous land barons.
We also urge the public to engage respective authorities for land and housing delivery.
These being Government ministries and local authorities.
TR: Housing shortages disproportionately affect women and young people. What is the Government doing to ensure that these two key demographic constituencies access affordable housing?
YS: As alluded to, shelter is a basic human right and Government is mandated to ensure that every citizen has access to shelter; this includes women and youths.
Allocations on developments funded by the Government and local authorities will ensure that 10 percent will be reserved for women and youths respectively as enshrined in the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy.
The policy also notes that the performance of settlement-related functions, provision of services and the financing of settlement activities will adhere to the Constitution regarding equality of men and women, the rights of older persons, youths, children and persons living with disabilities.
TR: The development of social amenities has been outpaced by housing development over the years. What is being done to ensure that all emerging settlements have social amenities in place?
YS: Social amenities refer to infrastructure of public good.
These include water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, recreation facilities, SMEs workspaces and road networks, among others.
As we plan for future projects, the aspect of social amenities is being incorporated.
However, in areas such as Senga, the ministry has already incorporated social amenities on the ground floors of the blocks of flats such as shops and children’s play centres.
The smart city concept also ensures the availability of social amenities within living spaces, thus the live, work and play concept.
TR: Can you give us an update on the development of housing for public sector workers?
YS: The ministry is currently the custodian of rented accommodation for civil servants across the country.
We are also making frantic efforts to repair the existing infrastructure and also construct new structures and finish stalled projects so that civil servants and the general public are accommodated.
Such efforts include projects like the Dzivarasekwa flats, Senga Flats Project, Marondera Flats Project and the Beitbridge Redevelopment Housing Project.
We have also engaged local authorities for land to construct more units and the response has been positive.
We are now planning on more projects and also taking cognisance of the application of new construction technologies to ensure that we speed the delivery timelines.