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Ministers resort to Avenues flats

SOME cabinet members are living in a block of flats in the Avenues area in Harare due to shortages of official accommodation, amid reports that former ministers and senior government officials were refusing to vacate state houses.

Housing and Social Amenities minister Giles Mutsekwa has since threatened to evict the ex-ministers in the next two weeks.
The Zimbabwe Independent established that several cabinet members, among them, Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Gorden Moyo, Minister of Water Resources Samuel Sipepa Nkomo and Minister of Public Works Joel Gabbuza were living in a block of flats in the Avenues.
The Avenues, an area with little security, is Zimbabwe’s centre for red light vices such as prostitution and drugs.
Mutsekwa last week told the Independent that he was compiling a comprehensive record of former government ministers and bureaucrats still occupying state houses.
According to Mutsekwa, ministers were entitled to an official residence secured by the Police Protection Unit (PPU), an official Mercedes Benz and personal aides as part of their employment benefits.
He said government was paying exorbitant rentals for serving officials who did not have official state accommodation.
This, he charged, was because former Zanu PF cabinet members, widows of top Zanu PF chefs and connected former top government officials were reluctant to move out and pave way for people who should legitimately occupy the houses, he said.
“I will evict former government ministers who are living in state properties. When I evict the ministers, some former government officials will also be thrown out by officers from my ministry,” said Mutsekwa, who himself does not have an official residence despite his ministry being in charge of the properties.
Mutsekwa said the cash-strapped government was forking out US$1 000 per month in rentals for each of the ministers without official accommodation.
“Official residence will cushion the lowly paid civil servants who include ministers. When we assumed office, we used to stay in hotels but that was highly costly for the government and we sought alternative accommodation.
“The problem is that those who don’t deserve the houses are occupying the properties and I am saying no to that,” he said. “In fact, we are supposed to have vacant houses but the former government workers took advantage of lack of records.”
Sipepa Nkomo said government should urgently correct the situation because areas such as the Avenues posed a security risk.
“I am squatting in flats in the Avenues,” fumed Sipepa Nkomo, whose parliamentary constituency is Lobengula in Bulawayo. “I am staying in the same block of flats with other ministers.
“It is worrying that we are struggling to get accommodation while civil servants, some of whom have left the country, have given the houses to relatives and friends.”
Moyo said efforts to get a government house were so far unsuccessful.
“I don’t have a house and I’m staying in a flat which I looked for because of a shortage of accommodation although we are told of former ministers and civil servants living in state properties,” he said.
Almost all MDC ministers are without official houses, and the Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo, an MDC official, is also living in a rented house.
A top MDC-T official said it was worrying that none of the ministers from his party were allocated a house except for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who was allocated a house in Highlands after President Robert Mugabe refused him access to  Zimbabwe House.
Tsvangirai is still living at his family home in Strathaven because the Highlands house is undergoing renovations.
“That’s a big scandal and something should be done to correct the irregularity,” said another minister, who refused to be named.


Brian Chitemba

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