Disabled tenants, charity trade accusations

HARARE - A year after the establishment of Leonard Cheshire — a home for people living with disabilities in central Harare in March 1982 — Majecha Tapfumanei was glad to find shelter that catered for her needs.

“We were living here without any problems until 1999 when we stopped getting assistance.

“They (board of trustees) would get funding from the parent company, they would divert it,” she alleged.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is a major health and welfare charity working in the United Kingdom and running development projects around the world. It was founded in 1948 by Royal Air Force pilot Leonard Cheshire.

Tapfumanei is part of more than 20 people living with disabilities evicted from the Leonard Cheshire-run Masterton Cheshire Home in Harare last week.

This was after a full Constitutional Court (Con-Court) bench on November 23 last year ruled that the residents should be evicted.

They were given a five month reprieve to organise their own alternative accommodation, but they defied the order and stayed put until their eviction by the Messenger of Court last week.

In its court application, the charity’s board said it could not continue paying water bills and rates after it had been denied access to the home by residents, who were now subletting the home to a church and a doctor and pocketing the proceeds.

The board of trustees successfully argued before the apex court that the home was established as a temporary shelter for people living with disabilities to allow them to get access to vocational training before moving out to start life on their own.

Tapfumanei was one of six severely disabled persons who rejected a house built for her and insisted on staying at the home.

She claims the charity wanted to build a home in Glen View on her brother’s stand, and she wanted a place of her own. She also said she could not live harmoniously with her sister-in-law and that the home did not have adequate facilities.

Masterton Cheshire Home said those who refused to vacate the home chased away nuns who had been appointed by the trust to look after the home, forcing the board to approach the courts seeking their eviction.

The Social Welfare ministry also said efforts to offer alternative accommodation to the evictees have been rebuffed.

“Since November 23, 2016, when the Con-Court ruled in favour of the Board of Trustees of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe , efforts have  been made by various concerned stakeholders chief amongst which were the department of Social Welfare and the Zimbabwe Republic Police to map out a smooth exit plan for the affected persons with disabilities.

“The Department of Social Welfare also committed to facilitating the disbursement of a grant to the tune of $800 as start-up capital for income generating projects by the Leonard Cheshire Executive.

“Alternative temporary accommodation has been identified at the Ruwa National Rehabilitation Centre but to date the offer has been rejected by the persons with disabilities.

“The people said they were not eager to go there since it was temporary accommodation.”

The ministry said it had planned to make individual needs assessments of the affected persons with disabilities to facilitate reunification with their families and re-intergration into their communities.

“However, to date, there has been no cooperation by residents towards implantation of these processes. The ministry continues to engage the residents with a view to provide the requisite social assistance,” the statement inked by the acting director of  Social Welfare ministry  Sneddon Soko said.

The Leonard Cheshire Trust affords disabled people short-term rehabilitation facilities at facilities including Westwood Children’s Home, Mvurwi Outreach Centre and Masterton Cheshire Home — whose purpose was to accommodate people with disabilities to enable them to attend vocational training courses offered by private colleges which are situated in the CBD and move out after completing their courses.

It also accommodates those disabled who required physiotherapy from nearby Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and St Giles.

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