â€œIT is through the grace of God that we managed to survive the cholera outbreak, otherwise it should have wiped us all out,â€ said Fungai Moyo from Mbare, Harare.
Residing at Paget House â€“â€“ a dormitory meant for women only in the high density suburb â€“â€“ the 38-year-old Moyo expressed disillusionment with the inhuman and humiliating conditions she and other residents are made to live in at the flat.
For the four years she has stayed there, and the Harare City Council has made countless promises it never honoured to improve the conditions.
Contrary to the empty promises, the situation has worsened and is in need of urgent attention. This is despite the fact that the women pay what they term exorbitant rates to the council.
Moyo said they were living like animals and were at times embarrassed of the surroundings they were living in.
Showing the Zimbabwe Independent news crew around this week, Moyo explained how harsh the conditions they were staying under were.
At the entrance of the flats, a stench emanated from the side of the dormitory.
Dirty water trickling from blocked showers and tubs upstairs could be seen flowing down the walls into the flatsâ€™ dining room.
Moyo lamented: â€œYou see this is a place where people are supposed to be eating, but look at how it looks with water from blocked showers upstairs flowing. This is disgusting. It is a miracle that we are not sick. Further down are the kitchens where we cram when we want to cook.â€
On the first floor of the house, the first thing one sees is the dirty water that has accumulated in the showers.
â€œThese showers have been like that for a long time. It is now a year we have been facing such problems. It is difficult to shower in such conditions. That is the same condition with the tubs. There is no running water and we have to collect it from the taps outside,â€ Moyo explained.
The bathtubs are brown and rusty with dirt while only two toilets on the floor that has about 28 rooms were functional. Two people share each room.
â€œThe toilets also do not have running water forcing us to use the bucket system,â€ she said.
Yet with all these problems, Moyo â€“â€“ who makes a living from sewing and mending clothes â€“â€“ owes the city council US$124 in rentals.
â€œI am required to pay the council US$124 for rent and an additional US$23 they call property tax, but for what? For this dirt! It makes me very angry. The rent is backdated from February and the woman that I share the room with has to pay the same amount. All in all we have to pay the council close to US$300 for this tiny room with a smashed window,â€ said the disgruntled woman showing us the broken window.
She alleged that some of the windows were smashed during the countdown to the bloody June 27 2008 presidential election run-off by Zanu PF youths during their campaign for the 85-year-old Mugabe.
Last week, the Harare City Council resolved that Paget House and Carter House, also in Mbare, be closed as they were a health hazard and needed renovations to make them habitable.
The council said Carter House, which offers overnight facilities, needed repairs in dormitories, sanitary facilities for both males and females, laundry, kitchen, cloakroom, linen and refuse, while Paget House required renovations in the dining room, kitchen, sanitary facilities from first to the third floor and improvement in refuse collection.
Moyo welcomed the city fathersâ€™ idea, but her biggest worry was where they would be housed if the two flats were to be closed.
She said: â€œWe welcome the development to renovate this place but where will they accommodate us during this renovation. Staying here is a sign that we do not even have homes.
â€œBesides we are yet to see if it will be renovated, we are used to these promises by city council. All they want is to milk our money. â€
Apart from the renovations at the two houses, councillors suggested the demolition of illegal structures and businesses that were mushrooming in the city.
The proposal was first made by Councillor Thomas Muzuva who said the city was facing a serious health hazard because of illegal structures.
â€œThe illegal structures are promoting unhealthy conditions which can give rise to cholera, for example, at Mupedzanhamo (Mbare) canteens are mixed with shops that sell chemicals, a very serious health hazard. Plans should be set to demolish these structures immediately,â€ Muzuva said.
Prominent places that were highlighted by the councillors include squatter camps along Mukuvisi River, Mupedzanhamo, Boka Tobacco Floors and sculptures at Newlands.
Councillor Mooza Allana raised concern over a lot of dumping of rubbish at Pennywise in Eastlea saying it was unhygienic and said the city fathers were also to blame for the mushrooming of squatter camps.
â€œMushrooming of squatters has also to do with the planning of the city. People are trying to earn a living.
Are we helping our people to get the resources or land properly?â€ said Allana.
Councillor Paul Gorekore on the other hand said it is the council that was giving people space to conduct such businesses, an indication of how rife corruption is within the system, especially in Mbare.
He said council should be consistent in the enforcement of its by-laws.
It is yet to be seen whether the city council will be able to achieve the set tasks following confessions by the finance director Cosmas Zvikaramba that the municipality was facing serious financial problems.
BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA