Felex Share: Senior Reporter
Government and civil servants yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding that paves way for the implementation of the residential stands scheme being worked out by the employer.The empowerment tool is part of Government’s non-monetary incentives to workers and it fulfils goals spelt out in Zim-Asset. Under Zim-Asset, the Government intends to provide 300 000 housing units to the people by 2018.
Yesterday’s signing ceremony was witnessed by Ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Finance and Economic Development), Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing) and Prisca Mupfumira (Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare).
Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Engineer George Mlilo signed on behalf of Government while civil servants were represented by Apex Council chairperson Mrs Cecelia Alexander.
Under the agreement, Government will approach municipalities and district councils to secure land on which to roll out the scheme, while the workers would provide finance for servicing of the stands.
Government has pegged the stands at $4 per square metre to ensure affordability, with an additional $1 going towards administration fee. All payments will be made through the Salary Services Bureau.
More than 121 000 civil servants have registered for the scheme, but the number is expected to balloon as Government intends to take every worker on board including those who are not members of the Apex Council.
Minister Chinamasa described the scheme as a “powerful empowerment tool”.
“Nothing can beat this,” he said.
“The ripple effect on the economy is enormous. There is job creation and the anticipation that I expect in the cement, brick-making and roof-making industries is unimaginable.
“Just overnight we are on the edge of creating huge employment as well as creating assets in our country. The challenge on Minister Kasukuwere is to identify the land and he has to work with the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora.
“I want to assure you that we will support you all the way. The scheme should also be accommodative and include pensioners.”
A square metre of land in high-density suburbs of Harare costs $4, while the same unit costs between $20 and $25 in low-density areas.
The prices, however, differ in smaller urban centres like Kadoma, with a square metre of land in high-density areas costing $2, while one will have to part with at least $5 for the same size of land in low-density areas. Minister Mupfumira said the scheme would restore the workers’ dignity.
“When we started it was like a joke but now a lot of work has been done and today is a great day indeed,” she said.
“We need respect and dignity for the civil servants and one critical thing that gives someone dignity is shelter. This is a noble idea that should be supported by all. I know some have land and have been struggling to build but there is the Urban Development Corporation (Udcorp) and we have the National Building Society. It is really up to you to take advantage of that because priority is given to civil servants. Some think it is politicking but the land is there, it’s real.”
Minister Kasukuwere weighed in: “Most of the money paid to the workers have been used to pay for cars from Japan because there was no other alternative investments that the workers could put their money into. Hence we thought about this idea. We are going to succeed together. We are here to ensure that every Zimbabwean has a roof over his or her head. The land reform programme was aimed at ensuring that we free the ownership of the land and we should use it to empower our people. Gone are the days when civil servants would have to be forced to stay in a cottage yet they are teaching the landlords’ children. We want to restore the dignity of our workers and this will also bring huge dividends to our economy.”
In response, Mrs Alexander said the gesture showed that Government respected its workers.
“It has been a pie in the sky for a long time and to us it is like a dream. We have got to the stage of signing an MoU which clarifies the role of each part. I don’t see us failing and what is left is to take off. Today when we met, we were actually discussing about the implementation matrix.”
The housing scheme will go a long way in cushioning civil servants who have seen many schemes being established in their names but benefiting outsiders and political bigwigs.
This has resulted in many Government workers being duped by so-called land barons.