MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC WORKS AND NATIONAL
HOUSING OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE
AT THE TWENTY-FIFTH
SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL
ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE UNITED NATIONS
CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS.
6-8 JUNE, 2001
Mr Chairman, my delegation congratulates you and the other members of the Bureau on your well deserved election to chair this session. We believe that under your outstanding leadership this session will be able to accomplish all its tasks with great success as expected. My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by Iran on behalf of the Group of 77.
On behalf of my delegation and the Government of Zimbabwe, it is a great honour and privilege for me to address you at this United Nations Istanbul +5 Conference, which is of great significance in the development of human settlements throughout the world. We see this Special Session of the General Assembly as an important occasion for my country as it gives us the opportunity to focus on the progress that we have made in improving the conditions and quality of human settlements within our country and to learn from others how to deal with the constraints we face.
Mr Chairman, like any developing country, Zimbabwe is faced with problems, but our determination to implement the Habitat Agenda is unquestionable and some significant strides have been made in this endeavour.
We see the team spirit created by the establishment of our National Habitat Committee as a major strategy to the reduction of the housing waiting lists that exist in every urban centre of Zimbabwe and to assist in the provision of shelter in the rural areas as well. The key responsibilities of our Habitat Committee is to facilitate, co-ordinate and promote activities of all stakeholders who want to participate in the provision of shelter.
Some progress has been made in the provision of shelter for the citizens of Zimbabwe even though our national housing backlog for Zimbabwe now exceeds one million. My Government is moving away from the role of being the direct provider of housing to a facilitatory role. We are encouraging and facilitating the provision of housing through a number of approaches that involve the participation of local authorities, the private sector, donors and the beneficiaries themselves, in partnerships that enable the pooling together of resources and skills. These approaches have resulted in over one hundred thousand new houses being constructed since the Istanbul Conference in 1996.
The Committee has produced the National Housing Policy, which has been approved by Government and is now our framework for further advancement in ensuring that every citizen in Zimbabwe has a decent place to call home. This policy document is a product of wide consultations and as such is enjoying national ownership and support that goes beyond Government circles.
Mr Chairman, in line with our facilitation role, Government has embarked on a process of decentralisation, particularly of centrally controlled urban land and infrastructure. Whilst carrying out the process of decentralisation, we are duty bound to ensure that the local authorities are capable of handling the new powers and responsibilities entrusted to them. We are therefore undertaking a capacity building exercise in our councils, and I am happy to announce that some pleasing results are being seen.
Zimbabwe is constantly looking for innovations in building technology and regulatory systems. We are also encouraging local authorities to investigate, experiment with and test alternate building materials and methods of service provision. This has required a paradigm shift but we are seeing some favourable results although some failures have also been experienced.
Mr Chairman, we in Zimbabwe are not only concerned about urban housing as the majority of our people live in the rural areas. My Government has embarked on a land reform programme, which has drawn a great deal of international attention, some positive and progressive and others to the contrary. Our intention in the land reform programme is to see an equitable distribution of land, which in turn will bring about a more equitable distribution of the economic benefits derived from agricultural production, which is our national mainstay. Land is a national asset and should always be under the control of the indigenous people of a nation. Our land reform programme is a result of past imbalances caused by the invasion of our country over a century ago. This imbalance resulted in a mere four thousand white families living on fifteen and a half million hectares of prime land while seven hundred thousand black families were squashed onto sixteen million hectares of barren land. This means a settler family had an average of three thousand, eight hundred and seventy five hectares of good land while the indigenous family had less than twenty three hectares. Mr Chairman, an injustice remains an injustice, no matter how old it is and my Government is rectifying the situation and restoring our greatest national asset to the nation. The land reform programme is not just about the redistribution of land - it includes provision of basic infrastructure, shelter and inputs to enable the farmers to thrive and to improve their life styles. Owing to the magnitude of the land reform programme; our intention is that two hundred thousand families will benefit, we are going to experience a major change in the settlement patterns in our country. The construction of two hundred thousand new homes, for people who have for years been deprived of access to agricultural land and have suffered from the resulting poverty, is a major challenge. I would like to take this opportunity to call upon the progressive international community to join us in our efforts to address imbalances and facilitate a decent life style for our people.
As I have already stated, we are decentralising powers to local authorities and have facilitated them to provide basic infrastructure. It is our fervent hope that the enhanced agricultural production brought about by our land reform programme, will form the basis for agricultural processing industries to develop and hence provide employment at a local level to those who are not interested in farming. We envisage small urban centres developing rather than the urban sprawl associated with large cities. My Government has already set up a system for tax benefits for investors in these small centres.
When I started my presentation I pointed out that we face many hurdles in transforming our vision for shelter for all into reality, but undoubtedly the availability of resources is the largest of these. You will agree with me that in order for the Habitat Agenda goals to be achieved, the requisite finance should be made available. As set out in paragraph 26 of the Declaration of the 18th Session, "domestic resource mobilisation as well as sound national policies are crucial for financing shelter and human settlements". Further, the Habitat Agenda requires governments to strengthen the existing financial mechanisms and develop innovative approaches for the financing of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.
In this area, my government, together with the private sector is spearheading the establishment of the secondary mortgage market as a means of mobilising domestic finance. New legislation is being actively considered to bring in new players such as pension funds, insurance firms and banks into the area of shelter development. The Capacity Building Programme being run by my Government is gearing local authorities to participate in capital markets. Credit rating agencies have now been set up to rate those local authorities that want to borrow from the open market. The public and private sectors have agreed to work together in ensuring that local authorities become viable business entities as well as assisting local authorities on matters of information disclosure so that they are able to attract investors.
Despite these efforts, we will always have a shortfall in resources. At the 18th Session, I pointed out that Africa has some of the World's poorest countries and in line with paragraph 50 of the Habitat Agenda which calls upon developed countries "to strive to fulfil the agreed 0.7% of the gross national product ... for official development assistance...," I would like to implore the first world to appreciate our position and support the Special Programme for Africa by funding initiatives from the United Nations Centre on Human Settlements and provide financial support to UN agencies dealing with the problems of Africa.
In conclusion, I want to assure this honourable gathering that we will not cease to strive to ensure that the right to shelter, enshrined in our Declaration, is a reality in Zimbabwe. It is constantly said that the world is a global village and we certainly want our part of the village to be made up of decent, environmentally friendly and affordable houses, which are owned by their occupants, and not the shacks that are so often associated with the third world.
Mr Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I appeal to
you to think about the future generations. They will only be able to give
us credit and honour if we leave behind a decent living environment. This
conference should give a blue
print of hope and create a sense of urgency. I wish all of us fruitful deliberations as we endeavour to set the foundation for the future.
I thank you.