Ngozi still stalks ‘clean-up’ victims

BY MARICO SOKO

BULAWAYO - From a distance you can see a mountain of refuse and tiny figures scavenging through the rubble. As you get nearer, a reeking smell assaults your nose and you wonder how the people are surviving the stench.
This is a place known as Ngozi mine, home to more than 5

00 men, women and children. Ngozi means danger in local SiNdebele, and one does not have to look far to see the danger these families are exposing themselves.
Japhet Ndoro with his tattered jeans covered with soot like a real miner, emerges from his shack where he says he has lived for months now after his original hovel was destroyed last year by government demolition teams at the height Operation Murambatsvina.
Ndoro says before Operation Murambatsvina about 3000 people lived here, but while others were assisted with relocation by the Combined Churches of Bulawayo, a multi-denomination grouping of local pastors, others came back to earn a living through scavenging for scrap metal.
Meluleki Ndlovu says while he would like to go to his rural home where his children are, but he has no money to take him home. Fr. Danisa Khumalo, a Catholic priest working with the people who have made their homes amid the filth here is assisting a number of families with relocation to their rural homes.
Some have been given homesteads in Plumtree, south-west of Zimbabwe, the priest says, but not all who are here are willing to leave this place which is an obvious health hazard.
This place, far removed from the city centre is used by companies as a dumping site, and burnt tyres from a major tyre maker here can be seen a few metres from where a woman stoops preparing the family meal.
The scrap metal which they pick from the huge mountain of junk is sold for Z$2,500 per kg. The men and women who have made their homes here are part of thousands across Bulawayo living in the bushes despite being in what urban planners say is part of Greater Bulawayo with its modern buildings.
In Cowdray Park, about 12 miles from the Bulawayo Central Business District, an 80- year-old patriarch lives with eight other families in tents erected by the government last year, ostensibly as some form of transit camp.
Moffat Bwanali, who says he left Malawi before the country’s first president came to power in 1964 is frail and in poor health. “This is no way to live,” he said, watching his grandchildren play in the filth around the tents – just a stone throw away from the government’s much hyped Operation Hlalani Kuhle, another programme began as a knee-jerk response to the much condemned Operation Murambatvsina.
As these houses are still to be occupied by their beneficiaries, the tent-dwellers have taken advantage of the absence of tenants to get their drinking water from there – but for how much longer no one knows.
Bwanali says he was told by government officials to renounce his Malawian citizenship before he could be assisted. A controversial law here has made children born in Zimbabwe but of Malawian parents virtually stateless and also taken away their franchise.
With the demolitions last year, it emerged that many of the evictees were of Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican descent, but because they are not officially registered with respective embassies, they also cannot, after the new legislation, claim Zimbabwe as their home, though they have in the past participated in local elections.

Information is power
DEATH OF A HERO - JAMES CHIKEREMA 1925-2006

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