EDITOR — This statement by residents’ associations in Harare and surrounding rural regions addresses the recent announcements by the minister of Local Government that they intend to demolish “illegal” housing structures in different parts of the country’s urban areas which go against the Zanu-PF promises in its election manifesto. The manifesto promised people housing for all and a guarantee on property rights.
Minister Ignatius Chombo came into office on a Zanu PF ticket and is the custodian of the housing ministry and its governing policies.
There are serious issues surrounding the policy pronouncements by the minister of Local Government affecting livelihoods of hundreds of urban residents, and also the implementation of other development policies in the country.
Firstly, it is important to note that urban poverty in Zimbabwe is a manifestation of dis-synchronisation and failure of national economic and development policies.
When the State fails to create enough jobs or housing for its citizens in both rural and urban areas, people are pushed against the wall, and the construction of the so-called illegal structures becomes a necessity rather than a norm.
A significant and growing number of the poor have neither a job nor a source of income to take care of themselves and their dependants.
This sets a precedent for crime and other illegal social activities.
When cities are not supported by sustainable resource bases to provide jobs and incomes, urban poverty becomes prevalent.
On the other hand, the 65 percent who live in rural areas are struggling with conflicting relations of production where they lack security of tenure and are uncertain about their future livelihoods.
People in rural areas can therefore not invest in their own housing because there is no security for that investment.
In the midst of these developments, local councils in rural regions within the vicinity of urban areas are reportedly seizing land from communal farmers, without following any protocol of consultation or compensation, for the development of urban housing schemes.
Displacement not only worsens poverty; it also deepens conflicting relations of production.
The important consideration for any household is to ensure that their family has a roof over their heads, in addition to water, food and clothing.
Recent policy pronouncements in this regard are driven more by prerogatives of legality or otherwise, rather than fundamental human needs for shelter.
In the final analysis, it is important to consider that it is actually not a crime to build a shack in an urban area, because the overriding concern will be for someone and his or her family to have a roof over their heads first, before they can start looking for water, food and clothing.