HomeBusiness DigestBHP housing saga rumbles on

BHP housing saga rumbles on

Roadwin Chirara

ZEBAKWE Housing Trust (ZHT), a holding and management vehicle of properties benefiting former Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP) employees in Zimbabwe, has filed High Court pa

pers for the eviction of some of the occupants of houses mainly in Harare, as the four-year-old tenure saga continues.

Shepherd Njovana, an administrator with the trust, confirmed ZHT’s moves to remove some of the occupants, mainly retrenched workers of the onetime Australian platinum miner, from certain residential properties in Harare’s Bluff Hill suburb.

Following its monumental failure, BHP’s Hartley and Ngezi assets were bought by Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Ltd (Zimplats), which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Despite the shareholder changes, the ZHT arrangement still remains in place because it is (a housing facility) independent of the mine operations, Njovana said.

He said the recourse to legal action was taken because tenants were resisting payment of market-equivalent rates, but it was not a “blanket eviction exercise”.

“We have done something to that effect (seek an eviction order) and it’s not all the employees. It’s just a few, especially from the Bluff Hill houses,” Njovana told businessdigest last week, referring further questions on the litigation to his lawyers Mawere and Sibanda.

ZHT, owning about 316 properties in Bluff Hill, Chegutu and Norton, claims it operates leases with individuals and that it draws revenues from the houses to help retrenched workers sustain themselves.

The trust management would not readily provide the list of beneficiaries or explain the criterion used to select those in need.

Njovana stressed the residential properties were ceded to the trust by BHP and, therefore, tenants should adhere to the lease agreements.

“We are bent on helping these employees and the revenue… comes from these properties that if we do not charge accordingly we are not able to carry out our mandate,” he said.

However, some former employees who have been staying in the houses since the late 90’s charge that the trust wants to evict them yet they were entitled to staying in the properties since it was part of their severance packages and benefits.

They said ZHT was formed solely to cater for and advance the interests of the former BHP employees, and that it was wrong for the trust to imply that they were occupying the houses at its mercy.

Said one former employee: “We were told when the mine closed that we could reside in the properties and now they are trying to evict us for their own benefit.”

“I have been living in my Bluff Hill house for a long time since the mine closed and I am currently unemployed. Really, I cannot afford to pay such amounts as the trust is demanding,” he said, on condition that he was not named.

Businessdigest could not readily ascertain how much ZHT was demanding in new rentals, but it was learnt that some of the people wanted to pay below market rates for the Bluff Hill houses.

There is also a feeling from ZHT that the accommodation schemes could be opened up to outsiders and not just the former BHP group.

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