Highfield Western Triangle residents’ update

Highfield is the second oldest suburb (township) in Harare, established in 1930. It is a high density suburb to the south west of Harare the capital of Zimbabwe. The suburb is popularly known as Fio in local residents’ language and is a volatile community.

It was founded on what used to be Highfields Farm. Currently providing services to the community is Highfield Rutsanana Clinic and Municipal buildings, Highfield Cemetery, Kudzanai Primary school and other centres. The suburb is bordered by Glen Norah (formally Baxter Farm) to the southwest, Waterfalls to the southeast, Willowvale & Southerton spanning northeast to northwest.

The HRT has maintained a close relationship with this suburb by facilitating community activities and having local trained residents leadership in a bid to inspire local action by residents’ against collapsing community services.

This has been done as a fulfilment of the thrust of the HRT which focuses on empowering residents of Harare Metropolitan Province to demand transparency and accountability from service providers that have these shortcomings in their systems.

Sixteen women mobilised by Highfield Residents’ Committee (HRC) from Highfield Western Triangle, a locality whose name comes from the triangular shape of Highfield of Harare map gathered at a focus group discussion on service delivery issues.

The meeting was facilitated by Mrs Juliet Masiyambiri the Chairperson of Glen Norah Residents’ Committee (GRC) also representing the HRT Residents’ Council Vice Chairperson, Simbarashe Majamanda, the HRT Membership Officer and Ms Abigail Itayi the area Community Coordinator. The daily experiences of these women are detailed below:

1. Water Supplies and billing: Water bills are an inaccurate reflection of the consumption at household level as meters are not functioning. Supplies are unevenly distributed with some houses without water supplies. If one is to fetch water they have to wake up at odd hours such as 2 am. This has affected the family unit. The water has an orange colour which makes if inconsumable increasing vulnerability to disease. Unlike other communities which have boreholes as a substitute to council water, there are no boreholes in the area. Residents have dug a deep well in an open space called Muzerere in order to augment their water supplies.

2. Refuse Collection: The state of refuse in the area is disturbing. Almost every road has heaps of dumped waste, which have not been collected in a very long time. Despite the clean up campaign facilitated by the local residents committee in April 2012, the heaps have re-emerged. Residents from neighbouring communities also dump their waste in the community. One participant said that she told one woman who was emptying a wheel borrow full of rubbish on a dumpsite that if she was present at the clean up then she would not be dumping the rubbish. School children who attend Kudzanai Primary walk on top of garbage heaps to and from their school. The City of Harare has not adhered to the refuse collection schedule that it has previously published. However it made it clear that due to capacity constraints, it can only collect refuse once every two weeks, but they are still failing to do it. This is proving to be inadequate for the community.

3. Police and Vendors: Vending is the key source of income for most residents in the community. There are a great number of vendors along Shirichena Road who sell fish, soap, cooking oil, vegetables among other products. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is notorious for their continued harassment of vendors. There is a road way that has now been called “SPEED” because when ZRP police conduct their raids, vendors run away along the road as they try to protect their wares from the corrupt police officers who solicit bribes from those arrested. They now call it “kutonyora” that is bribing the police but they do not get their wares back. Municipal police officers are presently not a problem in the area.

4. Transport and Roads: Commuters are being charged $1.00 during peak hours weekdays and weekends. ZRP also solicits bribes from public transport drivers who speed away from police along the dusty and potholed roads. The City of Harare is using sand to fill potholes, which has transformed most of the rods into dusty roads. One participant said that after taking a thorough bath with limited water, you get to town with so much dust on your head as commuter omnibuses speed along the roads. Consequently most women are now covering their heads with doeks or cloths as they travel to the city centre.

5. Power Supplies: ZESA bills lack transparency and accountability. They are received late and are very confusing to the residents. Load shedding is inconsistent. Some households in Western Triangle do not receive power supplies because they are improperly connected to the main power cables.

6. Public Toilets: Machipisa Shopping Centre is the only centre in Highfield with a functioning ablution facility but residents are required to pay $0.50 to access the toilet, which becomes extremely difficult for members of the public, considering that most of the time, City of Harare people manning the toilets do not have change in coins.

7. Education Services: Kudzanai Primary School is charging parents $40.00 per term for school fees. From the resident’s view, the fee is unaffordable given the high unemployment level and the dire socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe. Parents mostly manage to pay half of the fees with the expectation that their children may attend lessons at least half the term then make the other payment having raised money, through informal means. “Supringly our children are turned away on the first day regardless of the amount paid.” A resident said arguing that: “Paying half down of the fees is being seen by school authorities as having the capacity to pay the fees in full and high interests are being charged on overdue fees”.

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