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News and Resources

From Poverty and Hardship to Independence and Prosperity: Housing Microfinance in Zimbabwe

News and Resources

By ZINAHCO, Rooftops Canada partner in Zimbabwe

Ms Phathani Mlalazi comes from Mushawedu Housing Cooperative in Chitungwiza, a sprawling “high density” area near Harare. Its members include 70 men, 110 women and 15 youths. Many of the co-op members are people living with disabilities including: the blind, deaf and dumb; people using prosthetics; people with albinism; and, those with cerebral palsy.  
Prior to forming a cooperative, the members suffered from a lot of discrimination. For example, a member with downs syndrome was chased away by a landlord using the excuse that “a person with downs syndrome makes a lot of noise”. Many problems were encountered by those with mobility limitations. While a rental room or house might have a toilet, it may not be convenient enough to accommodate the person with the disability. In the end, they are forced to use the bucket system. Those with disabilities cannot always carry out other tasks like other lodgers as often required by less than scrupulous landlords. 
The cooperative managed to mobilize itself into a group through the mother body for persons with disabilities called NASSCOH. They approached the local council to lobby for land where they suffered much discrimination. According to Ms Mlalazi, “We were told we did not have the capacity to purchase land as we were disabled.” In 2008, a Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives (ZINAHCO), Rooftops Canada’s partner board member, Mr. B Moyo, helped them to form a cooperative and by 2009 were a registered cooperative. Once they were registered they affiliated to ZINAHCO. 
Mrs. Mlalazi also explained that “Operating as a cooperative, we then managed to acquire 200 stands in Harare East after recommendations from the local authorities” We paid initial development fees for the development of off-site infrastructure and will continue to do so until the area is fully serviced. As is the trend with many people with disabilities, they rarely get employment due to attitudes and stereotypic views held by the outside world. Many of Mushawedu members are into informal trading; this is the way they raise incomes to pay for subscriptions as well as other costs.  
“In 2011 we applied for a $5000 loan. ZINAHCO offered to us equal opportunity to access finance from the revolving loan fund. We procured 600 bags of cement, built a warehouse and started molding bricks. 200 bags remained and with that we built ten slabs for our members. A sample core house was built comprising of two rooms, a toilet and bathroom.”
Mrs. Mlalazi went on to say, “I would like to encourage home seekers and fellow cooperators that you will reach your goals if you are determined. We are going to build those houses despite our condition.”