Former civil servants live like squatters

Over 200 families residing in appalling community blocks in the city’s oldest suburb of Mtapa, have accused government of neglecting their housing crisis since 1980.

Conditions fuelling early child marriages... Primrose Nyika.
Conditions fuelling early child marriages… Primrose Nyika.

A visit to the community blocks, which were built to accommodate bachelors during the Smith regime, revealed that the families are living in inhumane conditions. Each block, measuring about 300 meters, comprises about 18 dilapidated single rooms. In each one families of an average nine members live, while paying monthly rentals to council.

This has resulted in overcrowdings of monumental proportions. At the end of each block, there is a public toilet that also serves as a bathroom – but not one is functional. Raw sewage oozes from the toilets and the filthy smell simply makes it impossible for one to gain entrance – but the dwellers are forced to use the facilities because there are no alternatives. Children could be seen actually bathing in the filthy water, while others were drinking it despite the health risks.

“I have seven children and I stay with all of them in this single room together with my wife. Some of the children are now above 18 years of age. It’s pathetic because there is no privacy. We have no option,” said Jotam Mubingi, 52.

He explained that the majority of the residents were settled by government at independence as civil servants with promises of better accommodation facilities later during those years.

“When we were settled, some of the people had not married. Those who were married had an average of just one kid. The families have grown now but still the government has not given them alternative accommodation. Now most of us are no longer civil servants but pensioners. It’s betrayal by the government,” said Mubingi.

Early marriages

Primrose Nyika, 45, married to a former policeman, said the living conditions forced them to accept early marriages for their children. “Early child marriages of girls aged 14 and 15 are now rampant in this area. It is because the parents will be desperate for them to move out and create space for the younger ones because of the accommodation crisis,” she said.

Her neighbour, Charmaine Dube, revealed that some girls had resorted to prostitution and frequenting nightclubs because their parents, who need space alone, do not bother restraining them.

“At times you hear a parent insulting a teenage girl for coming home early in the evening. The parents will be happy to see the girls stay out late that they enjoy conjugal rights,” she said.

Gogo Marceline Paradzai, 72, a former nurse, said she was trapped in the slums because her six children could not afford to move her to an alternative place due to unemployment. “I now live with my eight grandchildren. All my children have moved out. I would have been happy if government had honoured its pledge to move us to another place,” she said.

Nelson Manwere, 56, protested the appalling condition of the ablution facilities. “Council is now saying we should build our own toilets but no one can afford to do that. We challenge government to intervene as it promised at independence. During the rainy season it’s even worse because the toilets are continuously out of order,” he said.

A Zanu (PF) supporter, Mugove Hamandawana, challenged the government to assist in the housing crisis. She warned that though they have been able to avoid a major outbreak of diseases in the past, the squalid conditions could lead to loss of lives.

Alice Katsaka, Director of the Murombo Munhu Trust, explained that her orgainisation was helping a number of people in the area especially children. She said the living conditions were inhumane and urged government to act on the problem.

No solution

Mtapa ward 6 councillor, Joas Tsanyau, said he was concerned with the plight of the people but since assuming office in 2013, he has failed to bring solutions.

“The problem is known even by Local Government Minister Chombo. As council we made a resolution for the area to be decongested. Land has been allocated for them to be given stands but few have the money to do so. The real solution would be for the construction of standard houses where the people will be taken to and made to pay subsidised fees to purchase them,” he said.

Post published in: Human Rights

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