THE government ceded control of the controversial housing scheme – the Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle – to local authorities for management in 2009, CITE has learnt.
The Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle housing scheme was launched by the government in 2005 to resettle people who were displaced by Operation Murambatsvina aimed at ‘clearing slums, reducing disease and driving out black marketeers.’
But the housing programme was criticised for awarding undeserving beneficiaries leaving tens of thousands to live in makeshift homes at various locations across the country while financially constrained local authorities, struggled to provide road, water and sewer services.
Speaking at a meeting, Wednesday, in Bulawayo, local authorities from Matabeleland South told the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Daniel Garwe, that the Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle projects were giving them problems as they could not identify the owners, some allegedly stayed in Harare and were not paying councils for service provision.
“Some of the beneficiaries are nowhere to be found, the documents that we have is just a scheduled list of names, for example, E. Sibanda with ID number but no address and no communication. Those people are paying nothing to the council and I want to believe that they are not paying anything to the ministry of national housing,” said Elvis Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of Matobo Rural District Council.
The minister who was appointed in 2009 to head the national housing portfolio after a cabinet reshuffle, tasked the ministry’s Acting Chief Director, Nelson Kuwanda to respond on his behalf as he had institutional memory.
Kuwanda admitted that Garakai/ Hlalani Kuhle was a ‘very protracted area” but what had obtained at national level is that in 2009, the cabinet (then led by late former president Robert Mugabe) resolved the programme be handed over to local authorities.
“The cabinet said the programme, as an emergency should wind up and revert to local authorities. We were working with the military and other government departments to provide that space as an emergency. When the government decided to wind it up, the eventual resting place for that programme is the local authorities but on certain provisos,” he said.
Kuwanda said one of the provisos was since the Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle was on state land the beneficiaries would pay government unless if the land belonged to councils.
“The government side, through the state land office estates, where the fiscus had been involved in terms of financing that project is most of the Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle is on state land. Beneficiaries whose structures were in various forms of completion, were expected to pay for that government financed component and those resources would go to the treasury. If the houses were on local authority land, they would pay council. That’s the short and long of it,” the acting chief director said.
He added when the paperwork had been administratively completed, the government would, with its compiled list of tenants of that programme, compare with councils.
“If they agree, only then, would the local authority accept taking it over. That exercise has been done for quite a number of local authorities which have taken over Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle as a project.
“I know a few local authorities are outstanding mainly due to the administrative bit, which hasn’t been completed in terms of harmonising the government list and the local authority list. Mostly if not chiefly in relationship to double allocations. I think that the vexing problem we are trying to raise and has to be speeded up,” Kuwanda said.
Deputy Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities Yeukai Simbanegavi suggested that perhaps some of the beneficiaries had moved to other towns.
“When the outer house was demolished, that person was given a Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle house yet some of these people were also lodgers. Maybe they moved out of that particular town and migrated but we might need to look for the whereabouts of that person.
“Perhaps a person was renting and working in Gwanda then became a beneficiary of Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle but found a job somewhere else and that’s why you may be probably unable to identify that person,” she said.