Frederick Dare, a father of three whose seven-roomed house in Kuwadzana high-density suburb was bulldozed five years ago during the disastrous Operation Murambatsvina (Clean-up) is still living in a crumbling shack despite promises by government to build houses for victims of its disastrous demolition.
Dare is one of over 700 000 people that were displaced by Operation Murambatsvina many thousands of whom remain homeless while others died as a consequence of this brutal government action.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe last week took time to listen to the woes of these unfortunate souls in the hope of assisting at least some of them. It will take serious government effort and a lot of money (which Zimbabwe does not have) to provide a roof over all the victims of its own folly.
Khupe met Dare and hundreds other squatters who were forcibly uprooted and placed at a farm at the southern periphery of Harare, called Hopley.
Most of them have lost all hope of ever rediscovering the lives that were snatched away from them in that madness of 2005.
They, as expected, complained bitterly about how government destroyed their homes and livelihood, dumped them at this godforsaken settlement without any of the basic human needs like health facilities and clean water, let alone ablution facilities or roofs over their heads.
Most of them now survive on buying and selling among themselves, chicken offals from the nearby Irvine’s chicken breeders.
Dare said the conditions at the “squatter camp” since 2005 had been terrible. Many people, he said, had suffered and died due to lack of proper health facilities, shortage of water and inadequate ablution facilities.
As if the tragedy deliberately visited upon them by government were not enough, the poor homeless souls have over the years been used as political cannon fodder by politicians from Zanu PF who have at each election since 2005, threatened to kick them from their shacks if they did not support the then ruling party, as if it was a favour for these people to be in their present situation.
“I had built a very good house but now I find myself in this chinyeda (makeshift building) with my children in an environment where there are no proper health facilities and no education,” said Dare.
Several other squatters told Khupe who braved a sombre tour of the forsaken settlement that they were dumped by government after being forcibly thrown out their houses in different suburbs.
Speaker after speaker told Khupe that the situation at the camp was becoming hopeless and accused government of dumping them and ignoring them ever since.
Miriam Madzokere said ever since she was forcibly removed from her new home in Kuwadzana’s new stands then, life had never been the same. The conditions she and her family of five found themselves in were like a “death-trap”.
“This is not life. We feel we were taken from our good homes and brought here to die. There is no water and nothing to show that the government is concerned with our welfare,” she said.
Another woman, Winfrida Chisiri, told Khupe that women were giving birth under unsanitary conditions with no medical attention.
“We are taking it upon ourselves to help women to deliver and most of the newly- born babies die as a result because we are not professionals,” she said.
“Government has failed to implement the Supreme Court decision to build complete infrastructure. Women fall victim to sexual predators who take advantage of their desperate situation to sleep with them in exchange for firewood,” she lamented.
“We have high risk of HIV and Aids here because of these circumstances.”
Others told Khupe that they were dumped by the then Zanu PF government and since the infamous operation in 2005, no government official had visited them to assess how they were surviving.
“You are the first government official to visit us here and we are really grateful. Some have a tendency of coming to lie to us when it’s election time to use us so that we vote for them,” said an elderly woman who said she had buried two of her relatives at the nearby local cemetery.
“We have been neglected and we will remain bitter until we are considered as people. Our children who go to nearby schools are called squatters and that is a tag we do not appreciate considering that we had worked hard to build proper houses that were destroyed during the Tsunami,” she said. Khupe apologised tearfully for the “ruthless action” by the then Zanu PF regime.