KASESE EXTENSION HOUSING PROJECT – THE DOUBTS, THE HOPES AND THE MYTHS

By Laiton Kandawire, a Patsaka Correspondent

The deal to fund the project has been signed. The ink has barely dried on the documentation and yet there are calls for caution and mixed feelings of outright doubt, hope and even some myths among the people meant to benefit from the project. What informs and fuels these feelings?
Patsaka Nyaminyami Community Radio sought to find out why there were reported pockets of resistance to the housing project. The findings are quite revealing, interesting and sad in some instances as they reflect the community’s perception of governance.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Kariba South Power Station Extension Project is nearing completion. It will add 300 megawatts to the national electricity grid, raising hopes that the crippling power shortages will be curtailed or even ended. The project did not build new pylons. It will feed the electricity into the already existing power-lines. This affects a community in Kariba that currently reside in housing built below 330Kv power-lines that transport power from Kariba South Power Station to other parts of the country. The increased voltage would threaten further their safety and health. A decision has been taken that they be relocated to another area, a new suburb known as Kasese Extension.

The Municipality of Kariba has secured a willing partner in this exercise. The Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ hereinafter), has agreed to fund this and other housing projects in Kariba to the tune of US$14.8 million. The two parties, to ensure that the housing project is not affected by outstanding dues to other entities, agreed to form a special purpose vehicle for this project, an unincorporated project vehicle they have termed the Kariba Housing Development Project. Not weighed down by the Municipality of Kariba’s outstanding obligations to other institutions, this special purpose vehicle is envisaged to service and develop 1557 high, medium and low density residential stands at Baobab Ridge Extension, Batonga, Kasese Main and Kasese Extension. This deal was sealed and signed on Friday, 25 August 2017. A historic day for Kariba, it was.

THE AFFECTED COMMUNITY’S REACTION

Three hundred and ninety households beneath power-lines in Kariba’s first suburb, Mahombekombe, have to be relocated. Community leaders from across the political divide confessed ignorance on the issue. They claimed that they were hearing this through the rumor mill and that there was no official communication from the Municipality of Kariba or any other authority.

Due to this perceived secretive way of conducting official municipal business, the community leaders were quick to raise fears of corruption (the derogatory word used was chitsotsi). Basing on earlier experience of the blocks of flats built in Nyamhunga to serve this same community, they feared councilors and municipality officials will smuggle in their relatives and friends and deny them the relief due to them. This community might have forgiven the locality for its past errors, but it has certainly not forgotten. The community has a long memory. Already there are stories of shake ups in the affected localities where some families have been uprooted to be replaced by relatives of Councillors and municipal bosses in preparation for the Kasese Extension relocation.

Rumors are also doing the rounds to the effect that only those who have cleared their rates arrears with the Municipality of Kariba will benefit. This has left the unemployed and elderly feeling segregated against.
In all the affected sections of Mahombekombe, the residents were quick to detail a litany of promises by the Municipality of Kariba regarding their livelihoods that the city fathers later reneged on. They find no reason to believe the city fathers. There is even a wish that the IDBZ should have gone it alone.

The issue of new toilets recently put up in some sections of the affected areas of Mahombekombe suburb heightens the doubt of residents. “Why spend money on new toilets if we are going to be moved”, they ask.
Others are hopeful, however, that they can now start new lives in a pristine environment with modern amenities. They hope to raise their families better in more family-friendly settings. For this reason, there are calls for a seamless relocation exercise not based on the whims and wishes of some council officials.

The Patsaka Nyaminyami Community Radio sought clarification from municipality officials on these hazy areas. If they are to be believed, the Municipality of Kariba mean well. They will guard against council officials who intend to implement personal agendas. Both Kasese Main and Kasese Extension are primed to have modern facilities and amenities that will bring a lot of relief to a people used to shopping in one crowded supermarket or even smaller tuck-shops with limited stocks. The budgets allocated for each of the suburbs are well spelt out and there should be no compromise on service delivery.

What measures will the Kariba Housing Development Project take to steer clear of controversy and unfounded rumors in order to deliver a wholesome product? We wait and see.