A thesis by a successful doctorate scholar has revealed that houses built by government under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle to provide homes for poor urban dwellers left homeless after the violent Operation Murambatsvina ended up benefiting the undeserving.
In his thesis titled Private Rental Rooms: Their Role and Affordability in Enabling Low Income Households to Access Shelter in Gweru, which earned Simon Mhlahlo the first doctorate awarded at Midlands State University, he argued that the rich ultimately benefited at the expense of the homeless.
“Dr Mhlahlo reveals that Gweru City Council, in conjunction with the central government, adopted two housing programmes known as the ‘self-help’ and ‘site and services’. Dr Mhlahlo argues that in theory, these programmes were tailor-made to meet the aspirations of the urban low-income households because of their affordability.
“However, research findings point to the fact that in practice, it was the high-income earners who benefited. Those at the bottom of the ladder of poverty found themselves excluded. The research revealed that ultimately the low-income earners continued to find shelter in cheap private rented rooms. This defeated local and central government intentions to assist the urban poor,” read part of the citation of Dr Mhlahlo’s research.
Mayor of Gweru Tedious Chimombe said the council was not responsible for allocating the houses, blaming central government and Zanu PF for corruptly allocating the homes, meant for the displaced.
“These were homes built to address the problem created by Murambatsvina, but Zanu PF as always abused the system and like the thesis reveals, allocated the homes to the wrong people, we were not in charge and could not do anything,” said Chimombe.
Gweru, however, does not have a strategy to alleviate the housing problems faced by the poor who are usually charged high rentals.
“We don’t have a plan to address the problem at the moment, but we will have to look at ways of dealing with these problems,” said the mayor.