Homeless family squatters to be resettled

A total of 121 homeless families who illegally settled in Gunhill in Harare are to be allocated housing stands by the Harare City Council, The Zimbabwean has learnt.

According to minutes from a December council meeting, the city has so far allocated 47 residential stands on Plan 2588 in Mabvuku to some of the informal settlers near Borrowdale racecourse, next to the Mahachi Quantum Complex. The remaining 74 families will be relocated as soon as alternative sites are identified.

There have been attempts in the past to evict the illegal settlers, but Amnesty International, a global human rights organisation, has urged the local authority and government to desist from ejecting squatters without offering them alternative land.

The constitution states that illegal settlers cannot be removed without being offered alternative, secure tenure.

An international foundation, Selavip, pledged $60,000 for the installation of water and sanitation on the new land.

However, Harare’s director of housing and community service, Justin Chivavaya, said the stands were not for free.

“The housing stands are not a free offer for the settlers, who are required to buy them and contribute towards the requisite infrastructure,” he said.

The Zimbabwean spoke to settlers who expressed their relief as they took turns to narrate their ordeals as homeless families.

“I am a single mother with four children. I came here in 2005 together with 50 other families from Hatcliffe Extension after Operation Murambatsvina,” said Bridget Pfukwa.

Murambatsvina was a sting operation by the government to destroy illegal structures, resulting in the displacement of about 700,000 people.

“My stay here has been characterised by turbulence and tribulation as both police and council took turns to burn our makeshift homes and harass us,” she added.

Pfukwa said in August 2010, police raided them at midnight and burnt all the shacks. “All our possessions, including food and blankets, were burnt to ashes. We were arrested and detained,” she said.

“I am happy that council has finally agreed to give us stands and I will work hard in my vending to build a proper house of my own,” said Pfukwa.

Eseirida Nhemachena, a widow with five children, said lack of accommodation prompted her to squat.

“I registered on the council’s housing waiting in 2001 and have been renewing it for years without getting anything,” she said.

Nhemachena said now that they were being allocated stands, she would work hard to build her dream house.

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