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Zimbabwe: CHRA Commemorates World Habitat day

The Combined Harare Residents Association joins Zimbabwe and the rest of the world in commemorating the World Habitat Day. This day comes at a time when Harare and other cities are facing insurmountable challenges in shelter and infrastructural development. While the day calls upon humanity to reflect on the state of towns and cities and the basic right to adequate shelter, the day also reminds us of our collective responsibility to the future of the human habitat. With this year's theme being "harmonious cities" the city of Harare is far from being harmonious as it bemoans lack of housing, infrastructural and service delivery deterioration.

The advent of Operation Murambatsvina saw the city of Harare becoming one of the major contributors to the world's more than one billion slum dwellers. Most residents continue to suffer from the scars sustained from that unfortunate operation and their situation is exacerbated by lack of sustainable housing (and other) policies. Operation Murambatsvina displaced more than 700 families, most of which have never been resettled as Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle's beneficiaries were selected on partisan basis. Most displaced residents found themselves stranded without any shelter as Operation Garikai benefited some political apologists who already had shelter elsewhere. Some of the displaced families were dumped at Hopley Farm in Glen Norah and Caledonia in Mabvuku where there are no sanitary facilities or any other social amenities.

The city of Harare (and other cities) is characterized by rapid growth of urban poverty and home ownership remains a pipe dream to many. Areas like Tongogara Squatter camp near Kuwadzana Extension still exist in spite of the Millennium Development Goals' commitment to decent housing for at least 100 million slum dwellers. Most residents live in abject poverty and those who are lucky enough to get a place to erect their shacks cannot access water, electricity and other services. The housing situation is desperate, home ownership is at its lowest, rental rates at their peak and demanded in foreign currency as the Zimbabwean dollar continues to loose value. Those residents who manage to get houses to rent also bear the brunt of paying in foreign currency, with most high density house owners demanding between R250 and R300 per room. In the city centre and low and medium density suburbs, lodgers pay between US$150 and US$300 or more from single rooms to cottages and full houses. While all this is happening those lodgers are so desperate that they cannot seek legal recourse as it is not affordable to many.

Harare is struggling with persistent water and power cuts, dilapidated sewer systems and collapsed municipal service delivery. The rapid urban growth experienced by the city of Harare coupled with lack of sustainable urban planning has resulted in immense pressure on service delivery; needless to say that the service providers should be highly capacitated in order to adequately deliver. The city of Harare has had local governance problems in the post 2000 era which saw a commission running the city for the better part of the time and the takeover of the water and sewer management system by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) further stalled the administration of sustainable policies to deal with the city's problems and planning ahead.

The water and sewer management problems have seen some residential areas going for years, months and weeks without water and unattended sewer bursts respectively. The shortages of water dictates that residents fetch water from unprotected sources thus diseases like cholera breed easily. CHRA has so far received countless cases of cholera and diarrhoea. The spread of these diseases is quickened by the crowding in most houses where in most cases a family of six live in one room and several families live in one house.

The saddening reality is the fact that those housing schemes accessible to average residents, like the Mbuya Nehanda in Kuwadzana and the Garikai scheme (which succeeded Operation Murambastvina) were allocated on partisan basis. All this is happening while some residents have been on the city of Harare housing waiting list for the past decade or more. The Combined Harare Residents Association remains committed to demanding quality, accessible and adequate service delivery on a professional and non-partisan basis and sustainable city development and planning. CHRA calls upon the responsible authorities to rectify the ills of Operation Murambatsvina as a matter of urgency.

07 October 2008

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

145 Robert Mugabe Way,Exploration House, Third Floor,Harare