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Ndaizivei Michelle Chifamba
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Hardlife in slums- Zimbabwe’s urban crisis

Harare, Zimbabwe Social November 24 @ 11:28am

Trapped in a dome, oblivious of the daily hassle and wars of Zimbabwe’s city life- the politics of succession among the main political antagonists. Approximately twenty kilometres south of Harare’s central business district lies Hopley farm- the face of Zimbabwe’s housing crisis.
Hopley is a settlement in Harare established in 2005, after the government embarked on Operation Restore Order. It had an estimated population of 15 000 by 2012.
Though the population seemed to have doubled- a trail of semi-detached houses, built with poor quality building material exists, without any infrastructure development in sight.
According to the Global Land Report 2017, slums have formed as a result of government’s inability to plan and provide affordable housing for low income segments of the urban population.
The City of Harare has been failing to cope with infrastructural development for many of the sprouting settlements.
As a result many of the developments have been occupied without adequate water and sanitation or infrastructure development.
According to the Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association, abuse of funds, misplaced priorities, misguided allocation of resources and the continued emergence of land barons has resulted in chaos within council.
“The politicisation of urban housing leaves the poor in slums, vulnerable and manipulation by the ruling party in a bid to lure urban votes. Land barons working with council and government officials have also emerged allocating land for residential stands to desperate home seekers,” CPRA noted.
According to residents land barons are associated with the ruling party Zanu PF and there is nothing that local authorities could do to stop Zanu PF linked land barons.
“The ruling party has allowed the rot to continue all for the purpose of winning votes under the guise of letting poor access housing regardless of the chaotic manner in which it is done,” said Onias Foroma, a resident in Dzivarasekwa Extension.


According to the residents in Hopley, the stands are not registered- without any form of service delivery, no formal roads, boreholes or schools- children of school going age with feet and faces white-washed with sand wrestling in the graves across.
Despite many houses the in Hopley not having any form of residential address, while many of the residents have alien citizenship- over the years many of them have participated in elections and have successfully voted.
“We came here in 2012. Before that I used to stay in Epworth, at my father-in-law’s house. We registered as youths within the ruling party Zanu PF and paid five dollars, that’s how we settled here,” said Melody Bocha, a settler in Hopley.
“We never experience challenges when it comes to voting,” Bocha added.
Council recently sued Universal Co-operative Society, Excellent Stares Co-operative Society, United We Stand Housing Co-operative and Ideal Homes Co-operative Society for illegally settling home-seekers City Council owned Crowborough Farm.
According to court papers, the local authority said since 2012, several housing co-operatives had been illegally distributing stands to their members who had been building houses.
“The land occupied is not for residential purposes and its occupation is in violation of the Urban Councils Act. The residents are vandalising property on the land by blocking sewer pipes, destroying sewer holding ponds and building on top of major sewer and water pipes,” read part of the Council court papers.
Local Government, Rural Development and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, last week said land barons found guilty of occupying or illegally selling State land as well as settling people on undesignated places will spend five years in prison.
“With regards to uncontrolled residential developments, the Ministry is working on the amendment of the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act to ensure that punitive measures are taken for all those selling land illegally.”
“There is so much lawlessness in our country. Whether it is a powerful man or woman, if you break the law, we will deal with you,” Minister Kasukuwere said.
Many of the small detached houses are without toilets, and shallow wells which show visible signs of drying out are trenched close to some of the houses.
“We do not have a toilet at our house and we go to relieve ourselves in the graves. Children often go and play on the graves too. There is nothing taboo or superstitious about it. We are used to living close to the graves and we do not fear anything,” said Pamela Govati, a resident in Hopley.
The metal door of the one roomed makeshift house made of poor quality farm bricks is tightly tied with a wire so that it will not fall- in a black and white spotted dress, thirty- four year old Mildred Hotera sits close to her small room that she calls home- her youngest child out of six children sits on her lap as she attends to the small fire in- front of the door.
Preparing food for her children- Hotera said life in Hopley farm is as difficult that it is hard to explain.
“We came here in 2015- these stands were made available after paying sixty dollars. They said they were for poor people that how we ended up here.”
“I have six children. My husband is not employed. He makes a living out of doing menial jobs- building houses, and trenching wells for people. All my children do not go to school, they just spend the day moving around in the compound,” narrated Hotera.
Admire Zaya from Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association said that corruption has become endemic in communities and at the local authority in Chitungwiza.
“There is poor infrastructural development and pitiable service provision in the new settlements in the new settlements in Chitungwiza. Residents of Chitungwiza urban have resolved to combine efforts and work together to improve service delivery,” Zaya said.
Twenty- five kilometres east of Harare’s CBD, on the marshy, black soil- a debris, sewage polluted river meanders parallel to the settlement dotted with small houses made of wooden cabins.
According to the residents in the settlement, during last year’s rainy season water almost washed away their houses while most of their furniture was flooded with water that was seeping through from underground.
In most of the wooden cabins, there are no cement floors- black plastics and tents are spread across the rooms and act as carpets on the floors to cover the mud.
“This is a muddy area and throughout the year, it is always wet. It gets worse during the rainy season because the mud becomes soaked with water. It is even difficult to walk along the roads which would be slippery,” Abigail Mariyoni a resident at the settlement along Bulawayo road said.
As the economy of Zimbabwe continues to crumble- its working population unemployed surviving on menial jobs and trading- many can longer afford to pay rentals that cost between thirty- five dollars and fifty dollars a room in the high density residential areas.
Some people have resorted to stay in the informal settlements without formal roads, sewage, water and electricity to escape the huge rentals.
“We rent this one roomed cottage that we pay fifteen dollars a month. We rely on other people’s wells for drinking water and we go to the nearby bushes to relive ourselves. We stay here because that is what we afford,” twenty- four year old Clara Chimedza, of Hopley said.
The residents in most of these residential settlements want the government and other responsible authorities to intervene so that they can formalize the settlements thereby improving service delivery and infrastructure development.
“We hope that council could intervene and formalize our residential area- we need schools for our children to learn from- currently there are informal satellite schools and backyard colleges. Our houses are not structured to have decent house numbers, and there are no roads- we just pass even on someone’s house,” Chimedza added.
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