Housing scheme brings joy to the disabled

Disabled people in Chitungwiza have endured decades of frustration, challenges and rejections by the City Council – which has failed to provide affordable housing for this vulnerable group.

Moses Mutemachimwe - I used to stay at a bus stop.

Moses Mutemachimwe – I used to stay at a bus stop.

United by their common experience of living with disability, 85 disabled people came together in 2008 to form the Mushawedu Housing Cooperative,  with the help of international partners
Through the National Council for Disabled People in Zimbabwe (NCDPZ) and the Community-Led Infrastructure Funding Facility (CLIFF) implemented by Equity for All (REALL) – a UK-based international development organisation – their dreams of safe housing became a reality.

REAL partnered with the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperative Agency (Sida).

The formation of the housing co-operative gave the group collective strength. They started a savings scheme with contributions of just $1 per person, per month. Supported by advocacy and capacity building programmes, they secured stands in peri-urban Harare within two years.

Rocky road
Group treasurer Phathisani Mlalazi (47), now a proud house owner, admits that it was a rocky road. “Initially Council officials laughed at us. They did not believe that disabled people like us could pay for our own houses. Previously, my landlord would not allow me to enter the house in my wheelchair, claiming that the wheels dirtied the passageway,” said this single mother of two.

Moving forward from land acquisition to home construction proved immensely challenging for the co-operative. Between January 2010 and February 2012, they only successfully completed one home at a cost of $7,000. Had they continued in this way, the housing scheme would have stretched to the year 2180.

However, Mushawedu Co-op entered into negotiations with CLIFF housing loans and in March 2012 a combined project kicked off. Monthly instalments of $25,000 worth of housing finance accelerated delivery at the rate of five houses per month.

Today, little more than three years on, the Mushawedu Co-operative has completed 85 homes, benefiting more than 475 individuals and liberating them from previously precarious housing conditions.

Bus station
“We used to stay in a bus station in Harare. Before the CLIFF programme none of my family members knew my children, they did not care that I was blind, but now I live in my own house,” said a tearful yet proud father of four, Moses Mutemachimwe (50).

Tariro Gamanya (30), also now a house owner said: “I was living in a small room at my grandmother’s in Domboshava. I could not get in and out with my wheelchair, but now I am free at last, I have my own house and I can move around everywhere.”

Chiedza Pamugwagwa (39), a mother of three shared her touching story: “When looking for a place to stay, landlords refused me because I am deaf. They did not want people with a disability sharing their home. They inferred that my disability would somehow contaminate their families,” she said, adding that previously she couldn’t find peace and had moved from one house to another.

The Mushawedu Co-operative with access to CLIFF housing finance has proved remarkably empowering and has greatly contributed to counteracting the stigma attached to those living with disabilities.  The project has exerted a positive influence on the beneficiaries’ sense of self and well-being.

Human being
“Our families can now see that we are also people just like them. Now they love us. As people with disabilities, they looked down on us. Now that I have my own accommodation, people recognise that I am a human being just like everyone else,” said Pamugwagwa.

For individuals previously subjected to a transient existence on the edges of mainstream society, many of whom lived estranged from their own families, the security and permanence offered by the CLIFF housing project cannot ever be underestimated.

“I am blessed to have a house that I can call ‘My Home’’. It is one of the best things that has happened in my life. Never again will I need to move from one house to another because I am now a free woman. Look at me, I used to be so skinny, but now I have a good figure,” said a happy Pamugwagwa.

At present the Mushawedu housing scheme offers individual sceptic tanks, bore-hole water, individual solar power generation or candle light and temporary road infrastructure.

The members of the group hail the CLIFF programme, as it has enabled them to envision a more positive future and empowered them to work proactively towards the achievement thereof. Moreover, they are confident that their voices are now heard.

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