By Lovejoy Mutongwiza
A dire housing situation unfolds in Zimbabwe as many low-income housing units grapple with the absence of essential amenities, leaving residents vulnerable to health risks.
Communal taps and pit latrines serve as makeshift solutions, exposing inhabitants, especially young children, to hygiene issues.
The poorly built and maintained infrastructure adds to the challenges, disproportionately affecting persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Merjury Mhlanga, the project coordinator of ACBOS, a community-based organization (CBO) that advocates for transparency and accountability in housing allocation, said in an interview that the process is largely opaque and prone to corruption.
“Section G1 of the Manual for the Management of Urban Land specifies that all councils are obliged to maintain waiting lists which should be updated annually and everyone on the waiting list should be open to public inspection. As CBOs, we continue to engage with our local authorities so that they adhere to the existing transparency mechanisms in place,” she said.
However, many people who are eligible for low-income housing face challenges in accessing them due to corruption at the local authorities. A woman from Bindura, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that many young women in Bindura have no access to low-income houses because they are outbid by people who have hard cash on hand.
“I have been on the waiting list since 2017 and my subscriptions are up to date, but we see people coming from as far as Bulawayo to get stands because they have hard cash on hand, which perpetuates inequalities. I think local authorities should introduce laws that promote transparency and accountability going forward,” she said.
The situation is worsened by the rising cost of housing in many cities, which has resulted in a severe shortage of low-income housing opportunities. Rent prices continue to increase at a rate much higher than wages, leaving individuals and families with limited options. As a result, they are often forced to settle for substandard living conditions or spend a significant portion of their income on rent, leaving little room for other basic necessities.
Mhlanga said that public inspection is important in enhancing the transparency of the housing allocation process.
“As CBOs, we continue to engage local authorities on this as this will strengthen monitoring mechanisms. As CBOs, we also empower communities to engage duty bearers using research-backed advocacy,” she added.
Norman Mudadisi, the advocacy officer for Nkomwa Foundation Trust (NFT), a CBO that works for the rights of PWDs, told NewsDay that the conditions of low-income houses are not favourable to PWDs as few can afford to pay their subscriptions.
“The main issue is the poverty and the background of PWDs as most of them are less privileged. I propose that the government should have a reasonable payment plan for PWDs to ensure inclusivity,” he said.