September 12, 2005

Mugabe announces retirement as president in 2008 / Housing costs increase

Robert Mugabe has indicated for the first time that he will retire as president of Zimbabwe in 2008, when his current term expires. He will be 84 and "will want some rest", he told Britain's Five News, but said he would remain active in his ruling party, Zanu PF, which will choose his successor. Before starting a state visit to Cuba, Mugabe admitted that poverty and hunger were increasing in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, House prices in Zimbabwe have soared beyond the reach of most low to middle-income earners. According to The Herald, building societies now required prospective borrowers to earn a net monthly salary of Z$15-million to qualify for the lowest mortgage. With the exception of government housing schemes, low and middle-income earners could no longer afford a mortgage because the repayment rates were above most income brackets. For one to qualify for a mortgage for a three-roomed house in Tafara in Harare, which cost about Z$250million, one needed to be earning a net salary of at least Z$15million. With that salary, the building society would only give half percent of the total mortgage and the borrower would have to pay the remainder. Houses in middle-income Harare areas such as Msasa Park, Westgate, Mabelreign, Hillside and Cranborne, now cost over Z$1,5billion, making it impossible for anyone with a net salary of less than Z$90million to buy in these areas on mortgage.

Most of the houses on the market are being bought for cash by mostly Zimbabweans in the diaspora, business people, speculators or current home-owners. Rentals had gone up with a room in the high-density suburbs of Harare now costing about Z$750 000 on average. As a result, thousands of workers in the low and middle-income bracket are now committing more than half of their salaries to accommodation. A survey by The Herald revealed most workers in the Z$1,5million to Z$5million salary range were finding their monthly income only enough to cover their housing costs. (The Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

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