Council dispatched final warning letters and bills averaging US$540 in August 2009 to families living in these dilapidated dwellings demanding full settlement of their bills within seven working days. These bills accumulated from February this year when the dollarisation of the economy took place. However, residents could not and cannot afford the high rentals.
On average, the city council is demanding US$70 a month for the one-roomed Mbare, Matapi, Shawasha, and Nenyere hostels which is way beyond the reach of the majority of residents in this impoverished community.
The council instructed its employees to lock all houses whose tenants owe them any amount to the last cent.
This sparked an outrage among the occupants and a riotous situation was only averted after the city employees ran for their lives. Residents have vowed to resist these illegal lock-outs after it emerged that the council had already purchased hundreds of steel lockers for this exercise. This is inhumane and unacceptable.
In efforts to suppress any dissent against their action, the council initially sought the help of Support Unit police to carry out the evictions after some council employees faced threats from angry residents. The riot police refused to intervene on the pretext that the police force does not intervene in civic matters.
The HRT is shocked to learn that the council has become a capitalist enterprise which is only focusing on making huge profits to appease its executives by giving them luxury perks while ordinary residents live in unacceptable, filthy and life-threatening conditions.
For the past seven months, residents have resisted paying these high rentals, demanding a justifiable and affordable review.
Instead the city fathers have become arrogant and unresponsive to the demands and expectations of the electorate who contribute a significant amount to sustain their extravagant lifestyles.
Residents living in these dilapidated structures feel the rentals are too high and not commensurate with the services they are getting. Residents want to pay for services they get. Most of these hostels have dysfunctional toilets and the whole infrastructure has collapsed posing a serious health risk for the residents especially children.
The HRT fully supports the residents’ move to resist the evictions which will result in a serious humanitarian crisis. Residents should pay monthly rentals averaging US$20 given that most of the people living in these hostels are unemployed and generate family incomes of less than $100 a month.
The HRT will not hesitate to mobilise residents living in the hostels for a complete boycott of paying any rentals unless an amicable solution for a negotiated settlement is reached.
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