As announced by the Francistown City mayor Sylvia Muzila last week that the council would repossess undeveloped Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) plots, the process has kicked in. The defaulters’ names were splashed in the Daily News of yesterday.
This process, however, did not come as a shock, as plot owners were long warned. The FCC is also not at fault for repossessing the plots. The law says they should, if plot owners fail to develop the land within two to five years of being allocated.
While there is no argument about the legality of the process, our problem is what the policy is capable of doing, or undoing.
The policy fails to appreciate that those who apply for SHHA programme are the struggling underpaid paid workers. These are the people who in most cases cannot even afford to maintain their families with the monthly pay.
To develop and build a decent house for the family, there a many expensive stages one has to undergo.
Even before mixing mortar to put a roof over their heads, they, like all of us, are expected to connect utilities, an expensive and long drawn-out exercise. Service providers, Water Utilities Corporation and Botswana Power Corporation often take too long to avail their services to the people. While waiting for water connection, water has to be bought or drawn from far away places. Without water, nothing can be done. While electricity connection has in the past few years been subsidised, many still struggle to finance the connections.
Then of course, the cost of building is high. While the SHHA loan is still most affordable, P60, 000 is far too little to cover the costs of building materials and builders. The amount is too low to even complete a popular ‘two-and-half’ starter house.
To augment that, many lowly paid workers have to raise funds from other sources. But these are usually individuals who hardly qualify for loans from banks, and even when they do, struggle to service such.
We believe instead of applying the law blindly, councils should seek to review such rigid policies.
Otherwise,the poor will continue to be impoverished, and the rich, who can afford to buy as much land as they can, will continue to be enriched.
We hope that as the FCC, other councils and Land Boards will take into consideration the circumstances each family is faced with.
By turning a blind eye to this, they will be reversing the gains we have made as a nation to fight poverty, and to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of making it possible for all citizens to have shelter.
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life . . .”
-- Nelson Mandela