According to the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIM ASSET), over 1,25 million people in Zimbabwe are in need of housing. This constitutes about 10% of the country's population and estimates indicate that more than 50% of those in need of housing are in Harare. In order to address this challenge, a number of housing co-operatives have emerged throughout the country and these self-help groups are identified in the National Housing Policy of 2012, as one of key stakeholders on national interventions aimed at reducing the housing backlog. It is against this backdrop that the Committee on SMEs and Co-operative Development embarked on an enquiry to understand the role and management of housing co-operatives vis-a-vis the delivery of national housing in Zimbabwe.
To get an in-depth understanding of the role and management of housing co-operatives, the Committee engaged the following stakeholders: the Permanent Secretary and officials from the Ministry Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development, Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Co-operatives (ZINAHCO), Dialogue for Shelter and Transparency International Zimbabwe. In addition, the Committee conducted field visits and public hearings to three housing co-operatives in Harare, namely, Emerald Hills, Herbert Chitepo and Third Chimurenga. Due to financial constraints the Committee was unable to visit and conduct public hearings outside Harare.
3.1 The Role of the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development
The Ministry administers the Cooperative Societies Act, which governs the operations of housing co-operatives. The Ministry informed the Committee that there was need to review the Act in order to address some of the challenges that had arisen in the management of housing co-operatives, particularly provisions relating to dispute resolutions. The enforcement procedures in the Act were said to be weak. The Ministry highlighted that this was one of the reasons why its decisions aimed at resolving conflicts were not being respected, hence its advocacy for the establishment of a Co-operatives Tribunal, which would have the capacity to make binding and enforceable decisions.
Furthermore, the Ministry raised concerns on the cooperatives which are not performing. Twelve housing co-operatives were cited for defying the provisions of the society's constitution and the Co-operative Societies Act, as well as, using it as a tool to intimidate dissenting voices within the society. These co-operatives include: Sally Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, Border Gezi, Nehanda, Zvakatanga Sekuseka, Pungwe Chimurenga, Zano Remba, 21st Century, Kugarika Kushinga and Ngungunyani.
In terms of Section 3 of the Act, the Ministry has the responsibility to conduct educational and training programs for members of societies; assist in proper accounting and management of funds of societies, as well as, raise the level of the general and technical knowledge of members of societies. In addition, the Ministry has the responsibility to monitor the activities of co-operatives. The Committee noted that the Ministry has been unable to fulfill its legal obligations due to lack of vehicles and personnel.