Government dumps evicted residents on wetland
HUNDREDS of families, whose houses were demolished at Arlington Estate near the Harare International Airport two weeks ago, have been dumped in a vast wetland along Hunyani River without any amenities.
The area is part of formerly Stoneridge Farm, south of Harare.
The Financial Gazette visited the area this week, which resembles nothing but the worst possible squatter camp.
This rebuts incessant claims by Harare South ZANU-PF Legislator, Shadreck Mashayamombe and the ruling party’s provincial heavyweight, Smith Marara, that resettlement of residents was being done above board and in accordance with proper and municipal procedures.
The duo, against which the residents have made serious allegations, has regularly featured in the State media and television, painting a rosy picture of an otherwise inhospitable place.
Evidence on the ground reveals the true extent of the forced eviction — shacks haphazardly sprawling over a wide area that has no ablution facilities and people sleeping in the open, where they have become fodder for mosquitoes.
The residents were allocated tiny stands measuring roughly 80 square metres, most of which are located right inside water logged areas where they have failed to even dig foundation trenches. The average size of an urban residential stand is 200 square metres.
A dejected George Madziwa (42) said he has since sent all his belongings to a friend’s house as he ponders his next move after he was allocated what he termed a “small dam” as his new stand to build a house.
He showed the Financial Gazette a trench he had tried to dig for a foundation, but gave up only a few centimetres deep after water started gushing out.
“I cannot do anything with this piece of land. I am pleading with authorities to find me a better one. I tried to erect a shack here like everyone else is doing, but, as you can see, the water level is very high here. I don’t know what to do,” he said, trying to dig at a different portion of the tiny stand.
The exercise would soon prove futile as water gushed out again from there too.
Ruka Marumura, who was allocated a stand barely 10 metres from the Hunyani River, said life at Stoneridge was hopeless and painful.
He has lost all hope in the government and prays daily for a well-wisher to come and assist them with food, housing and other amenities.
“We pray for a donor to come in and assist us. The government treated us in the most humiliating manner. We lost all the food we stored when the rains came while we slept in the open. We are in deep trouble here,” said the unemployed father of four, whose two wives fled after his Arlington house was flattened.
He is spotted preparing sadza for lunch with a friend, Simbarashe Nhau, whose wife also deserted him and went away with their three children when disaster struck.
“It’s true that my wife ran away after we lost our house two weeks ago. She simply said she was going to her sister’s place and never came back. She actually called last week to say she was no longer returning,” he said, starkly concentrating on his boiling pot.
Modesta Musa stood by her shack, which clearly looked like it could be blown away if a gale swept through the area, while suckling her 18-month-old daughter whose bright face seemed to be the only source of smile and hope for her.
“Ever since we came here, I cannot leave her to crawl freely. The place if full of filth and I fear for her health,” she said.
In some of the worst instances encountered by the Financial Gazette, some big families of five or six were staying together in just a single shack.
Without any proper ablution facilities, people relieve themselves anywhere they find cover and bath only during the night when they are assured no one is watching them.
In this open area that resembles nothing but a squatter camp in the making, human dignity, which is a fundamental right accorded to every Zimbabwean citizen constitutionally, is non-existent.
Residents said men and women in the neighbourhood often run into each other in the business of answering the call of nature.
In many instances too, couples go into bed in the same shack with their teenage children, the Financial Gazette heard.
When the newspaper visited the area this week, some of the residents yet to be allocated stands were gathered around Marara who was taking them through the formalities under the watchful eyes of jittery party youths, who blocked the news crew from talking to him.
Marara himself said he was too busy to talk to the Press, advising the Financial Gazette to phone him later. Contacted later he did not answer his phone.
Mashayamombe, who last week claimed the Financial Gazette had a vendetta against him, declined to entertain any questions from the newspaper.
Local government expert, Kudzai Chatiza, said government should compensate the residents.
This comes as residents, through human rights lawyers, are preparing a lawsuit after it emerged that their demolished houses actually stood on land which had been rightly acquired from the Ministry of Local Government and City of Harare.
“Government should, in all fairness, compensate those people especially now that legal documentation is out. They were so wrongly treated. Morally, no one should be subjected to such dehumanising treatment,” Chatiza argued.
The residents were moved to Stoneridge Farm late last month after President Robert Mugabe, in November last year, condemned their settlement, adjacent to the airport, as an eyesore to tourists.
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