Umguza council rebuffs Chombo's directive

BULAWAYO - Close to three weeks after Zanu PF romped to victory in the just ended harmonised elections, some of its election promises are beginning to unravel in Bulawayo.

About two weeks before the elections, outgoing Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo ordered all local authorities to write-off service charge debts owed by residents.

But Umguza Rural District council has rebuffed Chombo’s directive largely credited with harvesting a windfall in Zanu PF’s astounding change of fortunes among erstwhile hostile urban and rural voters.

None other than a small community of 300 families at Umguza Rural District Council Reigate Compound just outside Bulawayo on Monday put the fortuitous edict to test when residents strongly resisted eviction from a place they have called home for over four decades.

Reigate Compound about 8km from the city centre is home to families composed of employees, former employees of the council and non-employees.

Life has never been the same for the residents since January this year when council fired the first salvo by circulating a letter informing the residents to vacate the houses by March 31 or face forcible eviction and demolition of the homes on the grounds that residents owed huge water and electricity bills.

The eviction was put off when human rights lawyers intervened.

Council reportedly pegged the area for residential stands, a move that has been met with stiff resistance from residents who argue that council should provide alternative accommodation first.

After the council realised the resistance, they allegedly cut off water and electricity supplies as a “smart” way of pushing them out but from the look of things residents are not giving in.

The residents are currently relying on rationed borehole water.

When the Daily News arrived at the compound on Monday soon after the council officials had enlisted game rangers to lock families out of their houses, disconcerted residents had formed a vigilante group to forestall the eviction.

Some of the residents putting on Zanu PF party regalia and wielding clubs and long sticks threatened to “deal” with the intruders if “pushed far”  saying they were not prepared to be treated like animals.

“They cut off power supplies long back and just three months ago they shut water supplies just to force us out. Today, they sent the rangers to come and evict us but we refused and stood our ground,” said one frail looking elderly resident who refused to be named.

“All this they are doing is against what the President Mugabe has said about water bills. You evict 300 families where do you want them to go? Honestly that’s being treated like animals,” a visibly angry Titus Nkasa, 50, fumed.

Nkasa said all along residents had no electricity. “But a few days before elections we had electricity restored right through. Immediately after that they cut it off and they want to evict us just like that. We won’t budge.”

The Daily News observed that while the affected families do not have electricity just less than 100 metres away, one of the council senior employees George Sibanda  enjoys the utility.

The residents appealed to Mugabe to rescue them as the Umguza council has shown no compunction about its former workers.

The residents said they have previously sought the attention of the council chief executive officer Collin Moyo without success.

“What is he afraid of? All we want is a plausible explanation why we should be evicted when some of us were born here; grew up here and worked for council till we were retrenched,” another middle-aged resident facing possible eviction said.

The residential area which has about 75 houses was set up in 1959 for the Umguza Council employees.

As per the arrangement the rentals by the workers were being deducted from their salaries as rent to buy.

In 2001, some workers were retrenched from the rural council and  left paving way for non-employees who are now part of residents facing eviction.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.