Nehanda Co-op reels from defaulting home owners

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Tinashe Nekati
STAFF WRITER
nekatit@dailynews.co.zw

NEHANDA Housing Cooperative, a model of the modern-day low-income earners housing scheme, has been hit hard by a growing list of defaulters which is threatening service delivery at the Dzivaresekwa-situated project.

Established in 2000 by a group of war veterans under the Third Chimurenga project, Nehanda started off with 5 392 stands, with a large chunk of land being set aside for future developments. The settlement formalised by government saw the land being parcelled out for different use; residential as well as community schools, comprising seven primary and three secondary schools.

Upon receipt of a local government certificate in April 2004, work commenced in earnest with the construction of 492 stands then a further 791. In March 2008, Nehanda Housing Cooperative was officially commissioned by the then president, the late Robert Mugabe and construction continued on the ground, reaching close to 1 500 housing units.

As the government embarked on Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, Nehanda Housing Cooperative was cited as a good example of how to build houses which are habitable as opposed to illegal structures.

Sadly, leadership wrangles among the war veterans ensued, threatening to bring down a noble initiative which had managed to provide decent accommodation to the generality of Zimbabweans.

Cooperatives came into being in urban areas after urban local authorities — who had always had the mandate to provide land for housing stands for residents — failed to deliver on the function, leading to housing waiting lists ballooning out of control.

Councils had initially been able to deliver because of the low urban populations then.
However, along the way, councils reneged on their function as urban populations exploded but there was no proportionate housing delivery plan to deal with the heightened demand for housing, leaving room for the emergence of cooperatives seeking to fill the void.

Initially, it worked very well, with several families getting a roof over their heads through cooperatives. Sadly, a combination of corruption and rotten politics led to land barons and other criminals exploiting the apparent loopholes for personal gain.

Recently, the Harare City Council reviewed its housing policy, which is set to restore the city’s authority to service and sell land to individuals, thereby restricting residents from dealing with middlemen and housing cooperative management committees.

Andrew Marauka, the Nehanda Housing Cooperative secretary-general, told the Daily News that the major objectives of the cooperative were to address the housing backlog with the main focus being on low-income earners.

“The vision was to incorporate every Zimbabwean regardless of their financial status. The cooperative’s operations are guided by three pieces of legislation; the Cooperatives Act, the by-laws and Constitution. The Cooperatives Act section 40 specifies that every member should exercise rights upon payment and when due payment is ready. The rights of any member are based on the payment of subscriptions.”

Marauka added: “In the spirit of inclusivity and the need to keep the ruling party’s support base intact in the area, defaulting members were only expelled as participating members while they remained card-carrying cooperative members. At the same time, they kept ownership of their houses.”

“Since 2014, the arrears from the cooperative members rose to US$1 000 030,00 (one million and thirty thousand dollars) and the figure rose 300 percent after a group of expelled defaulters influenced other defaulters who were not expelled not to pay money to the cooperative but to pay them instead, pretending to be the bona fide members of the cooperative when they were actually expelled,” said Marauka.

“They claimed that through a clause of the Cooperatives Act — which is non-existent — they had passed a vote of no confidence in the management, an act which has no legal basis. There is no such provision in the Cooperative Act; in actual fact the Act indicates how management of the cooperative is selected for office.”

Keri Mute, the current chairperson of the cooperative said: “The Cooperatives Act clearly indicates that if a member fails to comply or meet his or her obligation in terms of defaulting it gives the management the power to write them letters. We, as management, wrote letters to defaulters summoning them to come for a hearing but they did not show up. We held a meeting to expel then and sent the minutes to the ministry.

“It is disheartening to see a person whom you gave keys to a house, who never knew where to get a nail for the house being the ring leader in trying to topple a constitutional management.”

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