The rate of expansion in informal settlements currently being experienced in most urban areas of Zimbabwe clearly shows the critical need for the government to provide low cost social housing for low-income earners. Part of this massive expansion of informal settlements in and around greater Harare and other cities has been mainly attributed to people who are selling land for profit in urban and peri-urban areas.

A few years ago government responded to the build up of informal settlements through Operation Murambatsvina, which left many people with no shelter.  Efforts to provide decent accommodation after Murambatsvina only benefited a few leading to a re-emergence of informal settlements in and around urban areas. Almost 9 years after Murambatsvina government has failed to provide decent affordable housing to people, and the demand for accommodation has risen sharply forcing many to join housing cooperatives as an alternative.  Land developers have cashed in on the desperate situation. There is chaos in residential stands allocation prompting government to respond with another wave of housing demolitions.

Presenting a paper on social housing under the topic “Finding a solution to the need for low cost housing” at the Netherlands Embassy, Eddie Cross said that the current housing crisis in urban areas calls for the provision of low cost housing units using local entrepreneurship skills and technology supported by bond funding.  Some of the strategies suggested in the paper include upgrading and formalizing informal settlements through planning and provision of roads, water and sanitation facilities.

Zimbabwe still uses housing systems inherited from the Smith regime and some of the existing facilities no longer cope with the growing population. The refurbishing and upgrading of existing housing, like blocks of flats in Mbare, will unlock the value of the properties and make them habitable. Many residents are yet to enjoy property rights and risk losing their houses, as they do not possess the title deeds. Providing house owners with title will incentivise communities to further develop their areas and at the same time help address historical, social and political imbalances.

Report corruption

Transparency

Government should help protect consumer rights

The harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe has exposed consumers to exploitation from private businesses, services providers and public institutions. One problem facing consumer rights victims is the lack of consumer protection law that provides a way for individuals to fight back against abusive business practices.

Since independence Zimbabwe has been using several fragmented pieces of legislation to try and protect the interests of consumers.  Legislation like the Consumer Contract and the use of the Small Claims Court to settle disputes has failed to reign in rogue business operators. Sellers of goods and services have taken advantage of consumers’ lack of information, and bargaining power by either distorting prices or offering sub standard goods and services. The most common kind of abusive business practices happen when consumers are in particularly vulnerable circumstances. Also the influx of cheap and inferior products has seen an increase in the number of retailers failing to offer warranty or refund on purchased defective products.

In an effort to address violations of consumer rights, the government recently launched the Consumer Protection Bill, which will see a nationwide consultation process spearheaded by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to seek input on the bill from relevant stakeholders. Consumers have a big stake in the consultation process, as their participation will help in the crafting of the new law, which will hold sellers of goods and services accountable when they seek to make a profit through unfair conduct. Once enacted the bill will see the formation of the Consumer Protection Commission, which will be in charge of co-coordinating and networking consumer activities and liaising with consumer organizations in order to promote fair business practices and protect consumers.

Only 4 of the 27 Bills mentioned by the President in September 2013 were actually presented to Zimbabwe’s Parliament in the past year, says Veritas.

Police efficiency, Zimbabwe style

Here’s an experience from a Kubatana member:

I approached my local police station (Hatfield) with the intention of getting my certificates certified. I knew that the service was free.

At the gate, I told the police officer who was there that I wanted to get my certificates certified and she asked me why I didn’t go to a Commissioner of Oaths who charges R2 to certify a copy? I was really shocked. Why pay when you can get something done free of charge?

It took me more than 30 minutes, being referred from one office to another before I got to the commissioner’s office.

The officer in the office told me that the commissioner had gone to the canteen for breakfast. I waited for an hour and still the commissioner had not returned. An officer came to the office and told me that the commissioner was playing snooker and advised me to approach him at the snooker table.

I approached the commissioner and he told me to go and wait for him at his office.

He then came and certified the documents. That was a real experience for me. Spending so much time at a public place, which is supposed to be customer friendly.

I thought I could share my experience with the Kubatana team.

- TM

Something for Grace Mugabe to think about

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
- James Baldwin

Vast tracks of land under forests are under threat in Zimbabwe from deforestation and land degradation. It is estimated that Zimbabwe is losing more than 300 000 hectares of trees (forest) per year largely due to deforestation. Agricultural expansion, driven by population growth, has also contributed to the deforestation, as new farmers tend to rely heavily on trees for firewood to cure tobacco. Depletion and loss of forest has become a major issue for climate change the world over contributing 15% of global greenhouse gas emission. Effects of climate are starting to be felt in Zimbabwe with prolonged dry seasons and floods affecting some parts of our low lying regions.

Zimbabwe has engaged several forest management initiatives targeted at protecting and rehabilitating existing forests. Among such projects is the recently piloted REDD+ initiative, which aims to build the capacity of local indigenous people so that they can effectively participate in managing forests under the REDD+ processes. A few selected areas in the Matebeleland North region have been running several pilot forest conservation projects under the REDD+ initiative in an effort to promote conservation of biodiversity.

REDD+ aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon. The initiative currently has 47 developing countries as selected participants and so far the project has been implemented in 18 African countries. Zimbabwe was recently selected to become a member of the REDD+ initiative under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

If managed properly the project is earmarked for huge financial incentives making good governance and accountability in managing the resources a priority. Recently Transparency International Zimbabwe hosted a workshop on mapping strategies on the elimination of corruption in the management of forests. The discussion noted that the only way to ensure transparency in the REDD+ initiative was through the provision of information to the community particularly on the sharing of benefits accrued from the project. Through information sharing, communities will not only know of their entitlement, but also the benefits to motivate them into forest protection and other areas, which they can participate in. Since the project would demand vast tracks of land, participants raised the issue of conflict relating to the land tenure system during the implementation of the project, sharing of benefits and protection of land rights for the local people.

Benefits from the REDD+ will be used in community development efforts in selected communities. So far Kariba and Binga districts have received farms inputs and irrigation systems as incentives from the projects.

The difference between adults and children

Zimbabwe Republic Police

Our police force certainly has a PR problem. Here’s a text message we got from a Kubatana member:

“Police in shabane bissy patrolling day and night, is it not they want to steal from people?”