The Southern Africa hub meeting, which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe last week, coincided with a national land meeting providing huge opportunities to enrich the discussions with regional inputs from the other affiliates. The land meeting by the Zimbabweans was the culmination of two regional meetings held in Harare and Bulawayo to reflect on the experiences of the various chapters of the Federation in terms of progress or lack thereof on land access. The regional meetings enabled the regions to develop critical insights which would then help to frame national consensus on land issues.
Prior to the field visit to Dzivarasekwa Extension where the land team was stationed, the hub meeting first tackled the remaining issues on its agenda. The latter included presentations by affiliates on risk assessment, deepening of partnerships and growing of youth participation. Affiliates narrated the range of efforts and initiatives that had been started in each country to strengthen relationships with government. Most of the countries showed how strides had been made towards institutionalising engagements with government. In most cases this was being realised through the signing of Memoranda of Understanding that not only target formalising relations but also provide a clear framework for meaningful co-operation around concrete pilot activities.
In Malawi, an MOU with Zomba Municipality has led to a regularisation project in one of the informal settlements. In the case of Namibia, an MOU set the stage for strategic sharing of enumeration data with the National Statistical Agency. Interestingly, progress was also being registered by the emerging affiliates in terms of developing strategic links with government. The hub meeting was informed by the Swaziland affiliate that an MOU with the Manzini government was in the pipeline, while the one for Botswana was also coming up. The emerging affiliates stressed the need for support from the hub to guide these engagement processes.
The session on risk assessment exercises conducted by the seven affiliates making up the Southern Hub proved to be very informative. The presentations highlighted how the different affiliates had seriously considered both internal and external challenges that could potentially threaten the Federation processes and projects. Typical internal challenges shared by most affiliates included misuse of savings and low repayments. Strengthening accountability systems around finances was cited as one way for dealing with such problems, amongst a range of other strategies. The conversation on growing youth participation saw affiliates reflecting on the various activities which the youths were spearheading. The South Africans reported how the youth membership had grown to 1,884 with the interventions focusing on savings and addressing social vices affecting the youths such as alcohol and drug abuse. In the Zimbabwean case, capacity-building programmes targeting artisans also systematically included youths, thereby broadening the existing skills sets.
After the workshop deliberations the hub meeting participants then headed for Dzivarasekwa Extension to join the last session of the land meeting. The participants from the land meeting presented the key issues that had come out of the discussions. The report showed the challenges that were being experienced in relation to accessing land and largely these bottlenecks were attributed to land prices and availability. For instance, the lowest price for unserviced plots in most councils was pegged at USD 4.00/square metre while serviced (water & sewer) plots were being sold at USD 24/square metre. This slow pace of land delivery had therefore significantly impacted on the membership resulting in uMfelandawonye membership declining from the traditional 53 000 to the current 8 872. In light of these challenges, the Zimbabwean alliance has identified four focus areas that will be instrumental in resolving land access challenges. The focus areas were noted as follows: finance, development approach, partnerships and roles and responsibilities. Hub delegates reinforced the importance of savings as part of the solution to the finance-related challenges. In-situ slum upgrading was also considered as a key option for upscaling land delivery processes and a classic example was Epworth.