HARARE – Daily News – 22 October, 2014 –The rainy season brings with it joy to most people.
But for Mai Moyo, a widow whose immaculately built house lies on a wetland in Manyame suburb in Chitungwiza, the rains are a terrible reminder of her housing predicament. To her, and many others in the suburb, the spectre of having her house demolished is as unfathomable as it is devastating. Worse still, thinking of losing her only habitat, built on a lifetime of savings from her late husband, wrecks her nerves.
Moyo’s untenable situation arises from a concoction of factors: her house was built illegally, aided by civic leaders who cut corners, now she once again faces the brute force of nature as the rainy season is on the horizon. Built on the downstream side of Harare’s dormitory town, Moyo’s house and others in her area are quickly flooded with water each time the rain falls.
Last summer, security walls collapsed. Those rearing chickens lost all the birds and their groceries were soaked by the rains. Even chidren’s textbooks were not spared, while council and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society came to their rescue by donating food and blankets. Little could be done about the damaged property and security walls.
“I can no longer bear the suspense,” Mai Moyo says. “I am now tired of the stories about government officials issuing contradictory statements on demolitions. “ Today you hear that there are no demolitions, tomorrow another politician says something else. Will they ever get tired of abusing the poor people to get votes, my son?” she wearily says to the Daily News on Sunday crew. Her neighbour, who preferred to be called Tom, did not have any kind words for the government’s flip flops on demolitions. “We all know who sold these stands to us, but the government is not calling for the arrest of these people,” Tom said. “It is quick to demolish houses even at night. “Only mbavha ndidzo dzino batwa husiku, but we are surprised that the criminals who sold us these stands are free while we the innocent are being punished at night.” Mai Moyo’s predicament is a result of human greed, which has bred unbridled corruption among councillors, workers, surveyors, and municipality management.
More than 20 000 stands were illegally parcelled out in a well-orchestrated scam led by politicians from both Zanu PF and the MDC, with the later firing all its corrupt councillors. Government later belatedly expelled Zanu PF’s Frederick Mabamba as councillor, who is said to own 90 percent of the land on which illegal structures have been built. As residents with houses built on wetlands cry foul because of the spectre of unwelcome floods, others have been battling to connect to the sewer mains. The residents have taken their case to the courts. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which is representing the residents on a pro-bono basis, is arguing in court that under Section 74 of the new Constitution, government has no right to demolish houses without a court order. The local authority, on the other hand, is condemning the houses based on Section 73 of the same Constitution which protects the environment for the benefit of present and future generations. As the court battle rages, a health time bomb is ticking in Chitungwiza mainly at houses built on top of sewer pipes.
For a nation still recovering from a devastating cholera outbreak that killed about 4 000 people, there are fears of a resurgence of that health crisis given the poor sanitation conditions. Residents say what will happen in a town were sewer facilities are overburdened by the unregulated flood of new houses is too ghastly to contemplate.