Zimbabwe appeals for aid to help million homeless

Zimbabwe is struggling under an economic crisis that includes the world’s worst hyperinflation, unemployment at about 90 percent and severe shortages of basic goods. It’s housing sector has suffered a decade of neglect.

Housing Minister Fidelis Mhashu told a UN-Habitat meeting there were 1.25 million people on a waiting list for 544,000 housing units in 29 urban centres nationwide.

"It’s quite a mammoth task, so we are looking for assistance," he told the five-day conference in Nairobi.

The government says it needs $8.5 billion for an economic recovery plan over the next two to three years, with $1 billion for budget support and a $1 billion credit line.

Mhashu said President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, were working harmoniously "on a daily basis" in the new unity government.

The administration brings together Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Muchadeyi Masunda, the mayor of Harare, who was also at the conference, said Zimbabwe’s infrastructure had not collapsed but was "creaking at the seams" for lack of maintenance. 

"We are picking up the pieces from where we left off because there has been very little housing development in the country in the last 10 years," he said.

When asked who was to blame for the decade of neglect, the mayor said the resources "were just not there".

"We are not here to re-open wounds, we are here to take the country forward," he added.

The Zimbabwean delegation said security of tenure for housing investors was protected by law.

When asked if investors should be worried given the seizure of white-owned farms by Mugabe’s former government, Masunda said a distinction had to be drawn between rural and urban land.

"As far as rural land is concerned, it is a political issue to be dealt with at a higher level," he said.