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Murambatsvina victims in squalor

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Five hundred victims of Operation Murambatsvina continue to live in squalid conditions without electricity at Sidojiwe Flats — five years after they were displaced under the infamous operation.

The flats, designed to accommodate only 82 people were meant to be a “transit camp”.

This emerged during Bulawayo City Council’s Finance Development Committee recently following an appeal from tenants seeking reduction in rentals, which are pegged at $12 for each family a month.

Council refused to reduce the rentals but made a decision to visit the hostels to see the situation first-hand.

According to the latest minutes of Bulawayo City Council’s Health and Education and Finance and Development sub-committees, the local authority resolved that Sidojiwe Flats be demolished and alternative accommodation be sought for the victims of the clean-up operation “temporarily” housed there.

When Operation Murambatsvina was launched in 2005, council had hoped to destroy the flats and move tenants to the Millennium Housing Project whose construction was on the cards but failed to take off because of the country’s economic decline.

NewsDay visited Sidojiwe Flats Friday and found structures befitting a country that has just emerged from war. Almost all the windows were broken and soot-covered walls looked as if they had been shelled.

Tenants have improvised, putting up cardboard boxes and plastic on the windows of the dilapidated structures.

Secretary for the committee of the victims Daniel Mutandiro described the living conditions at Sidojiwe as deplorable.

“Families share communal toilets and bathrooms which do not have running water so we use the bucket system,” he said.

“There is no electricity in most parts of the flats, as you can see. People cook in communal kitchens creating a lot of smoke, which is a recipe for respiratory diseases.”

A 38-year-old widow with four children, Thandiwe Mlilo, said she moved to Sidojiwe when the room she was using in Makokoba was destroyed during Murambatsvina.

“As you can see, my family shares this room with another family and we have used the curtains and wardrobes to divide the room but there is no privacy at all,” she said.

“This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement but it seems we are stuck here.”

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