Housing Cooperatives in Zimbabwe

Housing Cooperatives in Zimbabwe especially Harare are common place. Reports indicate that there are over 2600 registered housing cooperatives and 1,200 have been allocated stands.

What are they

  • A Housing Cooperative is a group of individuals who come together and legally form an association whose main mandate is to put together resources to develop houses.
  • Generally they make monthly contributions and these contributions are used to buy land, develop it and then assist each member build a Home. The Homes are normally built in phases due to the limited resources.
  • Housing cooperatives are normally work based (employees of a company coming together and putting their money together to develop) or community based (members of a community organise themselves into a group with the aim of pooling money to develop)

Why where they formed

  • In Zimbabwe, they were formed in the late 1980s as a way to promote decent affordable housing development to assist the low income earners through participatory approach and the mobilization of the beneficiaries’ own resources.

Where they successful?

  • According to a Bulletin by Harare Residents Trust (17 February 2016), ‘One of the first housing co-operatives was the Cotton Printers Housing Cooperative. It was formed in 1984 as a work based housing co-operative in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. One of the largest housing co-operatives today, Kugarika Kushinga Housing Cooperative (KKHC) was founded in 1986 with about 2000 members, according to Zimbabwe National Association of Housing Cooperatives (ZINAHCO)’.
  • The housing co-operatives emerged at the turn of the millennium to alleviate the shortage of houses in the wake of failure by local authorities to provide decent accommodation
  • 94 840 houses were built in the country between 2010 and 2015

Current status

Debate is currently undergoing at policy and stakeholder level on whether to continue with the cooperative model (and give more land) or stop it. Media reports have indicated that the Government through Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has suspended the issuing of land to Cooperatives.

  • Corruptionmedia reports indicate a lot of corruption where land barons cheated people of their hard-earned cash through double allocation of land or settling people on illegal land
  • Political interference– housing is a basic need and people go to great lengths to get a Home and thus politicians may manipulate that situation.
  • Fraudulent and unregistered cooperatives- land barons have been reported to double allocate stands and fraudulently misuse funds.

Can You Still Buy a Property from a Cooperative?

The cooperative model has provided affordable stands to prospective house owners. This is due to the affordable initial deposit, monthly contributions and model of development they mostly take. Many of them are allowed parallel development. Parallel development is when a certain level of land development is allowed and the members are allowed to start building whilst the rest of land development is completed.

This attraction of affordable housing has on the other hand led others to be duped of their hard earned savings and thus calls for precaution when buying properties from cooperatives.

Precautions before buying a property from a Housing Cooperative

  1. Registration

The law requires that a cooperative should be registered. Check with Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development. They are currently located at  6th Floor Linquenda House Corner Nelson Mandela/First Street, Harare and telephone numbers +263 4 731006, +263 4 2525629,+ 263 4 250714, +263 4 253492 and +263 4 731002-8

  1. Documentation

Ask for legal documentation for the cooperative. Law requires them to;

a.Have a constitution

b.Carry out meetings

c. Prepare and audit their financials- yes your contributions should be managed well and kept in bank account

3. Property Developer

This is a company that has been hired to develop or service the land on which houses will be built. They are responsible for constructing roads, water pipes, and sewage. This stage is critical.

So please check for documentation that supports the appointment.

  1. Grounded!!!

Be sure to visit the actual location of the cooperative. Fraudsters normally trick people by forging documents for non-existing cooperatives. Visit and talk to members already settled and here their comments. If there are no settlers, check for the site office and assess the state of development.

  1. Land Allocation

Where did the cooperative get land from? Private purchase (-bought the land from a private seller-the better and ask for agreement of sale, title deeds or cession) or City Council (ask still for documentation). Avoid cooperatives associated with doubt like political settlements. Many politicians have allocated themselves land and gave themselves positions of management and thus influence the management of funds management.

Policy Debate on Cooperatives

Reports indicate that some representatives of Government Ministries and Local Councils are of the view that the cooperative model failed to achieve its objectives.

This means no more land will be allocated for cooperatives and existing cooperatives will be left to complete their existing projects.

Should we drop the model?

Those who support cite these

  1. “Housing cooperatives are establishing poor structures everywhere. When getting into Harare, you are greeted by shacks and haphazard suburbs put up under this model. We are having glorified squatter camps”- Harare Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni
  2. After land allocation , most of the cooperatives have proceeded to encourage their members to build and settle without having serviced the land
  3. Corruption has been encouraged. Double land allocation and abuse of contributions was common

But we should not drop?!

Is it the model itself that has a problem or it’s the implementation? Or it is a matter relooking at the current model and perfect implementation of the model?

“The co-operatives sector consists of 83% of all registered societies today because low-income earners saw housing co-operatives as the only viable option open for them to own houses as opposed to be on the local authority’s waiting list in perpetuity,” Sthembiso Nyoni, Min of SMEs and Cooperative Development (said in the National Assembly ).

Cooperative Societies Act 24:05 assists in the financial management of Housing Cooperatives.

  1. Abuse of funds– some cooperatives are synonymous with abuse of contributions and frauds. How can this be stopped?                  a. Contribution and safe keeping of funds– Contributions of members should be safe and the best place is a strong financial institution. A development bank? Can the responsible Ministry work with stakeholders to choose say 3 banks that will be appointed to open accounts for Housing Coops as detailed in b. below.                                                                   b. Trust Accounts and Escrow Arrangements-this means the Bank, Cooperative authorised signatories and developer or supplier are involved in authorisation of funds. At no given time that the Cooperative’s authorised signatories are allowed to withdraw funds without the permission of the Bank and developer /supplier.                                         c. No cash payments of contributions- all contributions should be paid directly into the Cooperative’s bank account and no other way would be allowed.                                                                                                  d. Audited accounts- Each cooperative should be prepare accounts and have them audited. The Auditor General should then audit all accounts as a requirement and the Ministry of SMEs and Cooperative Development should be co-opted.
  2. Land Allocation                                                                                  a. Unauthorised parceling of land- Some Housing Coops have allocated themselves land- in actual fact they illegally settled on land. This is a delicate issue which authorities can handle in any normal community guided by laws which include urban planning laws.                             b. Double Allocation of stands to desperate prospective owners- Depository or Central Registry has helped in this regard. The deeds Office has assisted by being a central depository for property ownership. For properties under Cession, Town/City councils have also acted as central points to check ownership. This has assisted minimise double ownership as prospective buyers first have to check with the Deeds Office or Council before purchase- Deeds Search.

Was this model true for individual stand owners in housing coops especially where there were no title deeds? Each Coop should be registered and total stands registered with either Deeds Office or council the Coop falls under. When a member decides to buy, ownership changes should be between the buyer and seller, council / deeds Office. Records should be verified there and documents deposited there too.

  1. Glorifying squatter camps issue!!! Surely standards in most cooperatives where low and thus safe to agree with comments that Councils were glorifying squatter camps through Housing Coops.
  2. Urban Planning- as part of the approval process, civil works and plans should be approved according to modern planning outlines. In line with the motive of providing affordable housing, the civil plans should also be affordable even in terms of methods. No-Plans No-settlement!!!
  3. Housing Plans – The responsible ministries should set standards in terms of the housing structures to be built. Low cost does not mean Low quality. Every housing plan should be approved and Council approves or monitors each stage of development. Normally for these types of settlements, plans are normally prearranged through the cooperative.

However, care should be taken on the cost side-al this should not take away the need for affordable housing since this is the basis for the formation of Housing Coops.

The reason of this post is to discuss the methods put at policy level so that affordable housing is available to many. Many people are on the housing list, some are living in poor facilities and others have been duped of their savings.

Policy is not static but adaptable. Authorities should engage with the ultimate goal of assisting many get a House that they will turn into a Home.


Let us discuss it further!! So engage us over email or through Twitter on our handle @getyohome.

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