A PARLIAMENTARY committee investigating the impact of housing co-operatives in national housing development has exposed shocking evidence of abuse at Herbert Chitepo Housing Co-operative, which takes its name from one of the country’s outstanding liberation war icons.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development said the co-operative had not held annual general meetings since 2009.
Its books of accounts have not been audited during the same period, which is a criminal offence under the country’s laws. However, those who have committed the crime are free, and one of them disappeared after members demanded accountability.
Based in Kuwadzana Extension in Harare, Herbert Chitepo Housing Co-operative has 501 members, one of the biggest in Zimbabwe, with 88 of them yet to receive their stands.
Parliament said it was concerned by the developments at the co-operative, but the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development said it was difficult to close co-operatives like Herbert Chitepo.
“This is the most problematic housing co-operative that was cited by the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development,” the committee, which carried public hearings at the co-operative, said in a report released last month.
“The management committee of the co-operative, chaired by Mr Chinyanga, was accused by the majority of its members of abuse of office and misappropriation of funds.”
“Since 2009, the housing co-operative has neither held its annual general meetings nor had its financial records audited in line with…the Co-operative Societies Act. The ministry highlighted that it could not place such problematic co-operatives under liquidation…because the majority of members of the society would lose their hard earned contributions if the co-operative is dissolved.
“During the public hearing, it emerged that some members were unfairly dispossessed of their houses; some female members experienced gender based violence in one way or another; there were regular physical fights between the management committee and some members of the society and a host of other unresolved conflicts.
Furthermore, the committee was informed that the treasurer of the co-operative had disappeared following mounting pressure from the society’s members to account for the society financial resources,” the report said.
The rot in administration at Herbert Chitepo Co-operative epitomes mismanagement that has characterised housing co-operatives across the country, which has forced the ministry to contemplate setting up a tribunal to handle a flood of conflicts.
However, the model of co-operatives, which was adopted by government in 1980, has failed to work in Zimbabwe, where hundreds of income generating projects then expected to later develop into fully fledged firms providing jobs, collapsed in the formative years of the country’s independence.
The concept has recently returned in the form of housing co-operatives trying to create pools of financial resources among low incomes earners to buy land and develop low cost houses.
But again, the housing co-operatives have become the centres of fraud, abuse of people by the connected elites and corruption, which has recently seen ZANU-PF youths being arrested and charged for defrauding people of funds while lying that they were being sent by powerful personalities.
The co-operatives use the names of respected nationalists and those with links to the liberation struggle.
The names include that of the late first lady Sally Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, the late national hero Border Gezi, Nehanda, a spirit medium that was one of the pioneers of nationalism in Zimbabwe and several others.
Recently established housing co-operative have included names like that of the first lady Grace Mugabe.
“Twelve housing co-operatives were cited for defying…Co-operative Societies Act, as well as, using it as a tool to intimidate dissenting voices,” the committee said.