The Zimbabwe government has extended the deadline for the completion of its Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle housing programme to December, due to the slow pace of construction.
Acting information minister Chen Chimutengwende told IRIN the extension beyond the original Aug
ust 31 deadline had been necessitated by building delays due to shortages of fuel and construction materials.
“Government has extended the programme to ensure that all work is done by the end of the year. We cannot fail to meet the new target,” said Chimutengwende.
In July the government announced it had allocated Zim $3 trillion (US $120 million) to the reconstruction programme, the successor to Operation Murambatsvina (‘Drive out Filth’), a slum demolition drive the United Nations estimated had affected over 700,000 people.
In a mid-term policy review statement in August, Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa cut the government’s commitment to $1 trillion for housing construction and assisting small- and medium-scale enterprises – half of which would be raised through the financial market.
But, Chimutengwende insisted, “Enough money has been allocated to keep the programme running, even with problems like the shortage of fuel and building materials.”
Progress has been painfully slow across the country, with reports that only 97 of the 10,000 housing units planned for the Whitecliffe settlement in the capital, Harare, have been built.
Less than 400 housing units were under construction in the Harare suburb of Hatcliffe, where a total of 15,000 units are planned. In Manicaland province in the east, less than 100 houses have been completed out of the 960 earmarked for the current construction phase. The programme was reportedly inching along in Bulawayo and Gwanda in the south and in Victoria Falls.
Besides the delays it has emerged that the majority of people affected by the demolition programme may not meet the criteria for ownership of the new houses.
Gwanda mayor Thandeko Mnkandla said the programme was no longer specific to the poor and vulnerable, who make up the majority of the squatters evicted by Operation Murambatsvina.
“The government has effectively handed over the allocation of the stands to municipal authorities. To qualify, one has to earn above a specified salary category, be on the municipal (housing) waiting list and be able to afford the deposit and monthly installments,” Mnkandla added.
“Many people who were affected are squatters who have never been employed – they cannot afford any of the requirements. The houses will only be available to the gainfully employed, and one has to be well paid to afford the installments,” he explained.
Chimutengwende countered that it was up to the responsible authorities to define the allocation criteria.
“To require that people meet certain criteria does not necessarily mean they remain out,” he maintained. “Government knows those who were affected and will help them accordingly, in conjunction with local authorities. This programme was planned two years ago, and it is people-specific.” — IRIN