Pardon Gotora City Scape
Uncertainty is a cloud hovering above the heads of many members of housing cooperatives and innocent home-seekers who fell victim to housing cooperatives and land barons in the past decade.
There are many questions begging for answers for the ordinary member of the cooperative who has been religiously paying towards a dream possession, that is, a house in town.
The Commission of Inquiry into the Matter of Sale of State Land in and Around Urban Areas Since 2005, in its report to President Mnangagwa on December 9, 2019, noted that cooperative leaders and developers were selling State land and pocketing the proceeds without developing on-site and off-site infrastructure.
What is scary is that both the Government and members of the cooperatives were prejudiced.
The US$3 billion worth of land that the Commission refers to is only on the Government side in terms of the intrinsic value of the land, which Government are in a position to redress.
There was no valuation of the quantum of or potential prejudice to the ordinary cooperative member who has been paying to the housing cooperative since 2005. Remember some of them were affected by the redenomination and demonetisation of our local currency in the past decade. In 2009, they were asked to pay top up in United States dollars despite some of them having been issued with confirmation of full payment letters, which they still have even today.
There are many hassles and discomfort associated with renting a residential property for you and your family.
You are forced to take instructions or orders from the landlord’s family. If you are called to the main house, something has happened or the rent is increasing.
It is even a nightmare nowadays with most landlords charging rent in foreign currency despite it being outlawed by the Reserve Bank and people getting paid in Zimbabwean dollars.
Joining a housing cooperative was largely anticipated to breathe a sigh of relief, but it seems to have added more misery to the home seekers.
As mentioned in the previous two editions of the articles, “Housing Cooperatives: What Went Wrong Part I and Part II”, some of the money that people contributed found its way into the back pockets of the management committees. Little has gone towards development.
The majority of the land barons are from the housing cooperatives management committees or started as such and later weaned off after wealth accumulation. Housing co-operatives have turned into what I will call “coop-preneurship”.
However, in the eyes of the beholder, the future is bleak despite the assurance they receive from the management committees. They appear brave and strong in public, but teeth are garnishing when seated within the four walls and a roof alone.
Past experiences of Operation Murambatsvina need to be quickly forgotten, but once in a while, they flash at the back of the mind. Each time a council vehicle is seen in the area, anxiety inevitably creeps in. Worse still, if the council official seems to be holding a layout plan, residents gather to get “first-hand information” on the goings on.
In this age of Information Communication Technology, it takes no time for people to mobilise and gather for a “common cause”. You do not experience the same level of anxiety in old locations, people continue with their own chores regardless of the presence of the council vehicle in the area. That alone is a clear indication that members of housing co-operatives are grappling with uncertainty.
There are various and varied questions that most members of housing co-operatives have, and have not yet been substantially answered.
Where an attempt has been made to respond to such questions, the people remain sceptical and unconvinced. The more the project delays, the more the nerves get the better of them. Some of the questions include, but are not limited to;
a) Is my house safe from demolition?
b) Will I get my title deeds?
c) Should I continue paying to the cooperative, till when?
d) How are Government and council going to resolve the crises in housing cooperatives?
e) What will happen to the land barons and the management committees that misappropriated the funds?
The most unfortunate facts are that, there are some people who paid to housing cooperatives but are late. Some have just thrown in the towel and are looking for a fresh start, letting bygones be bygones. They were frustrated to such an extent that they do not want to hear anything to do with the housing cooperatives. But the majority of them decided to stay put and remain steadfast to face the stick or the carrot, whatever comes first.
In my opinion, the legal route is the most appropriate given the circumstances and the complexity of the matters. At one point, the Zimbabwe Republic Police called for people to report cases of misappropriation of funds and selling of fake or non-existent stands.
If my memory serves me well, people were not forthcoming as hugely anticipated. Where they did, I presume some had no evidence to support their allegations. It is my strong conviction that the main reason why people remained in their shells was due to fear of political victimisation and loss of the stand in question. Most of these housing cooperatives were at some point used as hubs for abuse of political activities in the First Republic. This was noted by the Land Commission which states that there was “abuse of political office in the allocation and appropriation of urban State land…Land barons are usually politically-connected, powerful, self-proclaimed illegal State land authorities who illegally sold State land in and around urban areas without accounting for the proceeds”. This is a clear indication that, indeed, ordinary people could not volunteer any information incriminating the “politically-connected” management committee for obvious reasons.
If I were one of the members of a housing co-operative, I would collect all my documentation to do with the stands, such as the receipts for all the payments made, offer/allocation letters where applicable, membership forms or agreements of sale. I would follow all the due processes that the President will undertake to redress the matter through prosecutions of land barons as recommended by the Commission with due diligence. Where appropriate, I will be the first to produce my proof/evidence in the courts of law. It is disheartening to see the perpetrators walking scot-free in the Second Republic.
In the meantime, I will support whatever Government or council initiatives to regularise or sanitise the housing cooperatives.
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