Living in squalor 8 years on

HARARE - Tariro Nhamo trudges on a muddy path as she struggles to maintain the same pace with her mates.

The bare footed six-year-old girl is oblivious to the flimsy dress she is wearing and the rain that is soaking her wet.

All she is concerned about is making her way home before it gets too late.

Nhamo is among thousands of children who daily trudge their way into main roads to beg — for survival.

The six-year-old not only has to contend with the rains, but she faces a similar situation when she goes to the little shack which she calls home.

“I am not afraid of the rain because even when I am at home, it rains inside the house,” she said cheerfully while sniffing.

Nhamo, who was born at Hopley Farm, has never known any other home, but in her young innocent mind, she knows that somehow she is being deprived of her rights to shelter, food and health care and education.

“I do not go to school but some of my mates already go to school but they also live in nice houses and have nice clothes,” she said with her head titled to the side to draw sympathy form a motorist.

Nhamo’s life is a sharp contrast from the promise made by President Robert Mugabe in 2006 while commissioning a few houses that had been built under the Garikai/Hlalanani project.

“We want to uplift our children through education, provision of health facilities and to live in beautiful houses,” Mugabe said.

Eight years later, children like Nhamo, literally live in squalor after their parents homes were razed to the ground in a government-sponsored operation code named Murambatsvina (clean out the filth).

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who have been assisting people at Hopley Farm said failure to provide decent accommodation to people who were displaced shows that government had no regard for basic human rights.

ZLHR spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said government had not only failed the people of Hopley but victims of Murambatsvina who were now scattered across the country.

“It is really worrying that eight years after Murambatsvina, government has failed to provide decent housing to these people despite recommendations by the United Nations,” Mafunda said.

Last year, ZLHR Belinda Chinowawa wrote to Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo in connection with providing decent accommodation while another letter was sent to Education minister David Coltart concerning schools at the farm.

“We remind you that the right to education is enshrined in various binding international treaties to which Zimbabwe is party, and that as an arm of government you have responsibility to ensure that proper structures are put in place to enable these children attain education,” reads Chinowawa’s letter to Chombo, whose ministry is responsible for rehabilitating victims.

In October, Chombo promised to develop the area which falls under Harare South constituency during a Zanu PF rally but no clear plan of action has been availed.

“You must not pay money to any cooperative because that money is not going anywhere and is not reaching Harare City Council; this is government land.

“We will be coming back before the end of this month to tell you how you are going to be properly settled before we hand you over to council,” Chombo is quoted as having said to residents through local media.

Political commentators however, say Chombo’s words are far from being sincere but just a ploy to garner votes for Zanu PF in the elections expected this year.

Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the delays in providing decent housing for victims of Murambatsvina shows a misplacement of priorities.

“A lot of money has been used in projects like the $5 million Zanu PF building in Midlands when other people have nowhere to sleep?

“ Why do they the need such a building when they already have Zanu PF headquarters in Harare?” Ruhanya queried.

“Their priorities are upside down, look at the budget allocation for instance, the military budget is too high.”

Even though some view the 2013 budget as pro-poor, others like educationist Fay Chung says the budget is far from being pro-poor but in essence pleases the people in power.

Finance minister Tendai Biti increased the foreign travel budget for the office of the president and Cabinet who only consists of about 40 people to $20 million.

Loosely translated, $500 000 has been put aside for individual’s travel.

This money allocated to one individual could easily build houses for 50 families who are living in shacks and the total amount can house 2 000 families.

The plight of the suffering multitudes living at squatter settlements like Hopley Farm and the Gunhill area come at a time when several government ministers are reportedly building state-of-the-art houses for themselves.

Some like Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai literally live in mansions while their counterparts in government like Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Local government minister Chombo own vast tracts of land across the country.

According to a UN Habitat official, the number of people needing housing assistance has grown particularly in the cities but Zimbabwe is yet to cater for at least 700 000 people who lost their homes through Murambatsvina.

After Murambatsvina, the UN Habitat offered to build houses for the affected families but government turned this offer down insisting the money should be channelled through them.

The economic condition currently prevailing in Zimbabwe has also given rise to rural to urban migration and because of the housing crisis most of these migrants find solace in slums like Hopley and Gunhill.

The 2007 State of the World population report states that, more and more people are now migrating to urban areas in search of economic opportunities and Zimbabwe has not escaped this trend.

Another report on migration conducted in 2008, states that more than half of the world’s population will be living in cities and the figure will rise to about five billion by 2030.

This is because cities offer better opportunities than rural areas.

In Zimbabwe, migration has been exacerbated by the death of the Agriculture industry after the controversial land reform programme that saw close to 4 000 commercial farmers lose their land.

Most people who lived and worked on the farms were also displaced forcing them to seek shelter elsewhere and the majority are living in slums.

The situation currently prevailing in the country leaves little hope for the upliftment of children like Nhamo through an education, because while her mates go to school, she has to eke out a living on the streets. — Thelma Chikwanha, Weekend Post

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