Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
DULIVHADZIMU Primary School teacher Ms Charity Mbedzi (46) could hardly contain her excitement with tears of joy oozing out of her red rimmed eyes as she received keys to her new home from President Mnangagwa on Wednesday.
The housing units, built by Government under the Beitbridge Redevelopment Programme (BRP), were commissioned on Wednesday by President Mnangagwa amid pomp and fanfare during a colourful ceremony in the border town witnessed by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Zanu-PF Second Secretary Cde Kembo Mohadi and Government ministers among other top civil servants.
Ironically, the housing programme, which started in 2006, was initiated by President Mnangagwa who at the time served as Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities.
Exactly 15 years later, President Mnangagwa took the programme which he started, to its logical conclusion when he commissioned it as the Government moves to complete stalled programmes from the previous administration while also initiating new ones .
For a person moving from a squalid and overcrowded single room in the sprawling Dulivhadzimu suburb to a modern and spacious house with fitted cupboards, en suite bathrooms, ceiling fans and running water, it’s a wild fantasy that has been realised for Ms Mbedzi.
She is one of the beneficiaries of the 28 F14 staff houses for civil servants in Beitbridge.
Indeed, it was a special day for the civil servants, some of whom were adorned in the all too familiar traditional Venda attire as they took to the dance floor. The scorching heat of Beitbridge failed to melt the spirits of locals who graced the occasion to celebrate the day.
The commissioning of the houses also coincided with the belated commemoration of the UN World Habitat Day, which was on October 4 under the theme “accelerating urban action for a carbon free world”.
So far, 52 F14 houses have been completed under the BRP with 24 already occupied by Government workers while the 28, which were commissioned by the President are now ready for occupation.
The houses are connected to power, water and sewer reticulation infrastructure. Various trunks of roads have been constructed in the area.
For the past 10 years, Ms Mbedzi has been renting in lodgings where landlords demanded ridiculous rentals in forex until recently when a relative offered her temporary accommodation in a semi-completed house in Dulivhadzimu.
She had already been given up to December to vacate her temporary shelter in a single room to pave way for the relatives’ children when the good news was delivered to her unexpectedly.
Ms Mbedzi, a civil servant working at a local school who is also a mother of five, will soon be moving to a modern and spacious five-roomed house exclusively allocated to her and the family by the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities.
“The past three months were like hell to me after I was kicked out of my lodgings for failing to raise money for rent,” she said.
“I have been living a life of a destitute which eventually forced me to approach a relative who offered me temporary accommodation in an unfinished room where I lived in a squalid condition and paying R500 per month.”
Ms Mbedzi said when the President officially handed her the keys to her new house, it felt like a dream.
“I am at a loss of words to describe the feeling that gripped me when the President handed the keys to me during the commissioning of the F14 houses on Wednesday. I was actually speechless and stunned, but at the same overwhelmed with tremendous joy,” said Ms Mbedzi as she rubbed glinting tears of joy off her round face.
“To be honest, I never thought that as a mere teacher, I would be among the few chosen ones to occupy one of those houses given that there are so many deserving civil servants with higher positions than me. I am quite grateful to President Mnangagwa for launching this programme, which I believe will go a long way in addressing the plight of civil servants in terms of accommodation, which is major challenge in Beitbridge,” said Ms Mbedzi.
She said the completion of the housing project will improve the dignity of civil servants and provide them with the necessary reprieve from the current exorbitant rentals.
“By virtue of being a border town next to South Africa, the rand is the currency that is more circulating than others with landlords now demanding rentals in that currency. For us civil servants we get paid in local currency and accommodation is therefore a big challenge since landlords want forex,” said Ms Mbedzi.
She was the only one who was handed a house on that day because of her plight. The other civil servants will get their houses in due course.
Treasury has this year released $597 million for the completion of several housing units under BRP to ease perennial accommodation woes for Government workers deployed to the border town.
Government requires at least US$6,2 million to complete the outstanding civil works on the massive housing project.
The project is set to improve the face of the border town. Significant strides have been made in terms of the development of the project.
In addition, 16 blocks of garden flats are under construction to accommodate 64 families, while another border staff village of 264 is being constructed as a part of the US$300 million Beitbridge Border Modernisation project. Plans are also underway by Government to develop high rise apartments at a vacant piece of land adjacent to the constructed units.
Some of the major infrastructure development projects under the BRP include the construction of a modern truck inn, shopping complex, a five-star hotel (completed), an aerodrome, and the upgrading of the current border post to meet world-class standards.
President Mnangagwa recently launched the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy (ZNHSP) which seeks to address the housing and social amenities backlog and redress the issue of illegal settlements.
Under ZNHSP, the country aims to build 225 000 housing units by 2025 with construction, which will have a ripple effect on other sectors of the economy such as the manufacturing industry, already underway.
While commissioning the housing units, President Mnangagwa noted that there was a general shortage of decent homes and apartments in all border areas, a backlog which Government is determined to address in line with ZNHSP under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
Infrastructural development is one of key enablers for implementing the NDS1 towards achieving Vision 2030. — @mashnets