30 January 2013

Zimbabwe: No Action On Willowvale Flats Grabbers

The Financial Gazette can reveal that Mutsekwa insists that there are no irregularities in the manner in which the flats were allocated, despite evidence to the contrary.

This paper revealed last year that even newborn babies made it to the list of those who received houses under Phase II of the Willowvale housing project.

An investigation last year by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on National Housing and Public Works confirmed as much, revealing that on the list of those awarded flats at Willowvale Phase II are children born in July last year, one born in 2003 and another in 1998.

The Committee argued that beneficiaries of the Willowvale scheme should be on the Harare City Council's housing waiting list, questioning how toddlers could be awarded flats at the expense of the many adults with families, who have waited for years for a chance to own a house.

Mutsekwa has however, stuck to his guns.

"From the beginning, it was your own story. There was nothing that happened in the first place," said a defiant Mutsekwa this week.

He said his ministry had done nothing since there was never an issue in the first place.

Lovemore Mpukuta, chairperson of the Comm-ittee that probed the irregular allocation of flats at Willowvale Phase II this week said Mutsekwa was contradicting himself.

"But he admitted last year that there were some irregularities. May be the minister is just contradicting himself," he quipped.

Mpukuta said his Committee recommended last year that those who were not the intended beneficiaries of the flats under the Willowvale Phase II be removed in favour of intended recipients.

"We are going to check with the ministry to see if they have implemented our recommendations. However, if they have not, we cannot do anything but just that at least we have done our work. We brought out into the open the problems behind the housing backlog in the country," added Mpukuta.

The list of beneficiaries at Willowvale Phase II was fraught with inconsistencies as entries for departments as opposed to Ministries were made while some entries on the list were not complete.

Some names did not have first names while some did not have dates of birth.

The apparent lack of attention to detail shocked the probe team while it also brought to the fore the lackadaisical approach to work in Mutsekwa's ministry.

The terms and conditions of occupation were as follows:

  • Potential beneficiaries should not own another property in Harare (inclusive of one's spouse where applicable) and vetting will be carried out with the City of Harare and the Deeds Office.
  • Twenty percent of the flats will be allocated to civil servants at a reduced deposit rate of US$3 600 and the rest payable over 25 years.

The allocation criteria required beneficiaries to raise the required deposit, get a referral letter which they then took to the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe where they were "appraised for suitability and given offer letters upon qualifying." The recommended list would then be returned to the Ministry for endorsement.

Demand for affordable housing is swelling, but accessibility is getting more difficult due to population growth, urbanisation and rising costs of building materials and services.

Recent statistics indicate that demand for housing is overwhelming with a national housing waiting list of over one million people throughout the country's major urban centres.

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