Zimbabwe: Residents anticipate a bleak future on World Habitat Day
08 October 2009
The World Habitat day comes at a time when residents of Harare have become victims of poor urban planning, forced evictions, corruption and bad local governance practices. While the population of Harare has increased significantly, nothing much has been done in terms of upgrading the sewer reticulation system, water infrastructure and housing security; a situation that has drained hopes of a better future for the residents of Harare.
Despite the fact that the sewer reticulation system has been stretched beyond its carrying capacity due to population increase in the City, the local authority and the key Ministries responsible have not done enough to improve living conditions of the residents. For example, the Mbare Matapi, Nenyere and Shawasha Flats which are in a state of collapse have been over- crowded to the extent that a room which is meant to accommodate 2 bachelors is now housing more than 15 people; a situation that has put a strain on the sanitary facilities in the area. This has led to constant leakages of raw sewer due to burst sewer pipes and blockages. Media reports have revealed that the City of Harare is planning to demolish these flats so that better ones can be built. Thus the occupants of these flats are facing pending evictions but they do not have anywhere to go. This is a clear indication of poor planning on the part of the City of Harare. The first thing that would have been expected of a Council that was voted into office by the same residents would have been to construct alternative accommodation for these people before demolishing the flats instead of replaying another Operation Murambatsvina.
Victims of Operation Murambatsvina, a notorious exercise which was unleashed by the former government and its state apparatus in May 2005 continue to live in temporary shelters in areas like Hopely Farm, Gunhill and Highlands informal settlements, Mukuvisi and Caledonia. The City of Harare continues to sell housing stands to private land developers who in turn sell those stands to the public at prices beyond the reach of many. Thus decent accommodation remains inaccessible to many residents. The City’s Department of Housing continues to have endless waiting lists of residents who need housing stands in spite of the fact that Council is leasing some pieces of land for commercial purposes. This unfortunate situation has also persisted partly due to the fact that Operation Garikai, a programme that was supposed to benefit these homeless people, was abused by some politicians who saw this as an opportunity to increase their properties and partly because the city fathers have not seen the need to build houses for these people.
With this year’s theme being “Planning our urban future ”, CHRA urges the Council to make the provision of decent housing to every resident of Harare one of its top priorities. Informal settlements will forever be a part of this city for as long as the Council does not embark on projects that focus on providing shelter for its residents. CHRA remains committed to advocating for good and accountable local governance as well as lobbying for quality and affordable municipal services on a non partisan basis.