Home » Governance » Housing Co-Operatives to the Rescue

With Government battling over the years to resolve an ever-growing housing backlog now estimated at over 1,2 million, co-operatives present a viable complementary approach towards a solution to the problem.

In Harare alone, the housing backlog has surpassed 500 000 and continues to grow. Faced with this predicament, co-operatives have played an important role in assisting the local authority and central Government overcome shortages of shelter.

Although housing co-operatives are facing a number of challenges, some have grown to the extent of offering service to their colleagues.

This is the case with the ever-growing Nehanda Housing Co-operative, a 3rd Chimurenga project under the Government’s national housing delivery programme launched in 2001.

The co-operative is headed by mainly Zimbabwe’s veterans of the liberation war who took up the initiative to provide affordable accommodation for low income earners and their colleagues.

Despite several challenges in the beginning, the cooperative, led by Cde Never Kowo, has weathered the storm and recently handed over 981 houses to its members while a further 1 800 houses are at different stages of construction but have been allocated to members.

Speaking during the commissioning of a grader motor recently, Cde Andrew Marauka, secretary of the co-operative, said their growth hinged on their unity of purpose especially the goal to provide decent accommodation for their members.

“We are guided by three regulations, mainly the Co-operatives Act Chapter 24.05, our own constitution and by-laws and this has seen us grow as a co-operative to the satisfaction of our members,” he said.

Cde Marauka said despite difficulties facing the economy, Nehanda Housing Co-operative managed to purchase construction machinery for more than US$500 000.

“Members owe the co-operative more than US$1,3 million in contributions but we would like to work together for payment plans that will assist us as we grow. There could be a few individuals who are resisting paying their dues but it is for their own agendas that have nothing to do with our objectives as a co-operative,” he said.

Cde Kowo concurred saying the co-operative leadership was working with members in their projects for their development.

“Yes, we face challenges but our objectives to diversify our operations will continue. We have seen a mammoth membership growth from as little as 35 members to the current 4 500 members,” he said.

Cde Kowo said the co-operative had enough land for more projects but would now concentrate on improving infrastructures such as roads, schools and water and sewer reticulation systems on their land.

“There are several civil works that we are going to upgrade since we have acquired the new machinery and we hope that our infrastructure will be of the best standards for the benefit of our members,” he said.

Officiating on behalf of the Minster of Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operatives Development Sithembiso Nyoni, an official in the ministry, Mr Kenneth Chikura acknowledged the challenges facing Government in providing accommodation for the people.

“Government and local authorities have faced serious challenges in providing housing for low income earners and co-operatives have taken up that role,” he said.

Mr Chikura said it was Government policy to provide its people with decent accommodation hence the need to support co-operatives.

“There are several co-operatives doing wonderful things especially in Harare but it is unfortunate that the stories we get have never been positive. That is only a case of a few black sheep that are tarnishing the image of co-operatives otherwise we have many co-operatives that have done well for the nation,” he said.

Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Co-operative executive director Mr Ticharwa Kagu paid tribute to the housing co-operatives for accommodating thousands of Zimbabweans.

He, however, dismissed a few bad apples among housing co-operatives that are riddled with problems.

“Most of the housing co-operatives have done tremendously well in housing provision but there is need for Government to rein in the few that have caused some problems,” he said.

Mr Kagu said co-operatives having problems with non-paying members should enforce their authority guided by the Co-operative Society Act and their by-laws.

“The co-operatives are governed by the Act and subsequently the by-laws that are usually the same as they are guided by the former and there is need for a strict adherence to the Act and by-laws for the co-operatives to execute their mandate,” he said.

He said co-operatives are mandated to initially suspend or even dismiss members that are reneging on their obligations to pay their dues to co-operatives.

According to Nehanda Housing Co-operative project overview, there are 5 292 stands for low, medium and high density housing.

The co-operative has enough land for two community centres, seven primary schools, three secondary schools and open spaces for cregraveches, libraries, shopping centres, clinics and a funeral parlour. Government workers have also benefited from the co-operative with 529 civil servants benefiting on 10 percent commonage.

There are 1 205 members still on the waiting list while a further 315 inactive bad debtors are also part of the co-operative’s books.

The co-operative has also completed the construction of 450mm diameter off-site water mainline which is about 3,5km from the connection point while another 600mm diameter off-site sewer mainline has also been completed.

Source : The Herald