Tenants in Harare’s oldest township Mbare are appealing to the City of Harare to review its tenure system and grant them title deeds to the homes and hostels they have been living in for decades. They said it is high time that the City of Harare considers their petition so that they will be able to develop these properties.
Nobert Safuli (67), who has lived in Mbare since childhood, says giving title deeds to tenants will be a great service to the residents who have taken care of their properties for decades. “We have been living in these quarters for a long time. The city should consider selling the properties to us,” he said. Another resident, Jairos Musonza says most properties in the suburb are in a poor state owing to lack of care by tenants who believe that they have no legal rights to the properties.
Mbare suburb was constructed in 1902 under urban housing policies that were crafted to provide migrant workers with shelter. Over the years it has seen overcrowding, straining services to breaking point. Sewerage disposal, water supply and the electrical system are in a state of total disarray resulting from decades of neglect. Residents live in squalid, even life threatening situations and children are the most vulnerable. While residents continue to pay rentals to CoH their tenure status is not secure as the properties are still categorised as temporary.
Ward 11 councillor Antony Shingadeya says the issue of title deeds has been contentious for Mbare residents. “We have brought it to council chambers for deliberations on several occasions. Indications have always been that council is reviewing the petitions.” He says home ownership fosters better living conditions, a better environment and improved personal security.
Fellow councillor Martin Matinyanya, Ward 4 concurs, “Overcrowding and poor service delivery are the result of lack of tenure status. When the houses and flats were built they were meant to be temporary residences but people have stayed there for many years. This has put a lot of pressure on the properties.”
Harare City Evaluation Department revealed to Harare News that there has been no evaluation done to assess how much Mbare houses and flats are worth at current prices. The department states that the process needs money to be carried out and currently the city is unable to do that. It says the problem with Mbare properties is that the tenants keep on changing and the properties are often in the care of other people and not the original lease holders. Besides this, the department argues that this is city property which provides much needed revenue.
Meanwhile, social activists advocate that the provision of tenure through ownership is fundamental to poverty reduction and better service delivery. It is argued that ownership will remove the threat of arbitrary eviction and provide householders with an asset which can be used as security for credit. According to Psychologist Mandiramba Rukuni, tenure systems offer security, ownership and authority over a resource. While the matter of Mbare is complex, means must be explored to suit the socio-economic and cultural conditions of that community. “It will provide the conditions for the development of communities as residents get a sense of security,” said Rukuni.