Chitungwiza's shattered lives

HARARE - Shock, fear and despair have engulfed the community surrounding the Chitungwiza blast scene, in which five people perished in mysterious circumstances.

Four houses were razed to the ground while several others had windowpanes shattered.

The fear and anger from those directly affected by the blast — especially those who lost houses — is so glaring.

Circumstances leading to the deadly blast are still sketchy, but facts remain that a traditional healer, Speakmore Mandere, had a hand in what caused the blast.

Five people, including the traditional healer died instantly as a result of the blast, resulting in a rumour mongering crusade in which several theories were thrown around, chief among them being black magic.

The community of Chitungwiza were adamant that the blast was a result of some witchcraft or spiritual or super natural powers that went wrong.

Preliminary investigations into the blast however pointed to illegal use of explosives.

Dwellers of four houses that were completely razed down in the blast are still living in tents, with minimum water and sanitation provisions.

More than 12 people are using one small toilet while nine are sleeping in a single tent.

The Daily News visited the site recently and an eerie silence engulfed the whole area.

Motorists who drove by were also curious, with passengers craning their necks to get a glimpse of the “house of horror.”

Neighbours who had their windowpanes shattered said they have not received any assistance.

A woman who lives at a house adjacent to the affected house, Fransisca Marongedza, 45, said she has started replacing the shattered windowpanes at her house.

“A total of 22 windowpanes need to be replaced at a cost of about $5 each. This might seem like a small amount of money but I cannot afford it,” she said.

“I am a single mother with two children and live with my sister and her children. I survive on selling sweets and vegetables and this does not bring in money. This blast has really affected us.”

Windowpanes have not been replaced at all the houses that were affected in the neighbourhood.

An elderly woman, Savvie Maziyokwenyu, 68, said a number of people came to assess the damage at their homes and promised to come back and repair them.

“The assistance has delayed and it is no longer safe for me and my family to live in a house without windows. The wind is blowing into the house and causing problems.”

Dorothy Savanhu, 34, had her windowpanes shattered and felt cheated by a number of people who inspected her house with promises of assisting but never availed the assistance.

At the blast site, three tents were erected by aid agency Red Cross of Zimbabwe.

A woman at the tent site said nine people slept in one tent.

A group of men and women wearing sad faces sat in the tent cluttered with empty plastic containers.

A single toilet stood at the corner and was meant to service all the affected.

Takemore Mazuruse of Red Cross said his organisation came in to provide temporary shelter because they assist in emergency situations.

Mazuruse said: “We are working with the district administrator to offer a form of support under the auspices of the Civil Protection Unit and we are going to construct a permanent structure with other stakeholders. The Civil Protection Unit has the overall mandate to assist.”

At one of the destroyed houses, construction of a house was in early stages.

Shupikai Zarangera, 38, a tenant, said they were building with minimum assistance from the Chitungwiza town council.

“The district administrator gave us five bags of cement and promised to assist but they are delaying. We cannot keep on staying in the open and our children are not with us because this place is not suitable for them,” said Zarangera.

Zarangera said she no longer has access to any form of income as neighbours are now shunning her vending stall.

“Every time I try to sell at my stall outside, people are ignoring me and looking at me oddly and sometimes I wonder if they are doing this because of the blast.”

Chitungwiza council seems to be struggling to assist those affected.

Minister of Labour and Social Services, Paurina Mpariwa said she was not in a position to assist with construction.

She referred further inquiries to the Social Welfare department which asked for written questions. - Margaret Chinowaita, Community Affairs Editor

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