‘Mbare hostels to stay’

Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda yesterday said the Mbare hostels would not be demolished, but accommodation arrangements in the colonial structures needed to be changed.

The mayor said the hostels were designed for bachelors, but the situation had been allowed to degenerate into critical congestion because whole families were now accommodated in the singles’ hostels. Married couples, he said, should move out of the apartments.

Masunda told journalists after the ground-breaking ceremony of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project in Dzivarasekwa that council would not demolish the hostels without proper planning.

“Demolition will not be a viable option as things stand. But in due course, we will think along those lines. I wouldn’t want a situation like in Lagos (Nigeria) where millions will be left homeless. We don’t want to resort to extreme measures to deal with a situation allowed to go out of hand. We have to avoid another Murambatsvina,” Masunda said.

Masunda’s comments followed statements by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, who was quoted in the media yesterday saying: “The hostels would be demolished. They cannot be there forever . . . Upgrading the hostels is abnormal because they were built abnormally.”
The mayor, however, chose a more cautious approach.

“There are 58 apartments and those apartments were meant for single migrant workers way back in the 1930s. We need to decongest the place because from outside, they look robust. We are to use those flats for single persons. Those who are married should be taken out of the apartments in Mbare. You can’t bring up children in that environment,” said Masunda.

Masunda said initially, Mbare was supposed to benefit from the Bill and Melinda Gates project, but a shadowy political group believed to have links to Zanu PF literally pushed the project out of Mbare by demanding a majority share.

The project was then moved to Dzivarasekwa where close to 500 homeseekers are set to
benefit.

The mayor said he was pleased with the community spirit shown by the people in Dzivarasekwa who were helping with labour to build the houses and assured them that schools and other recreational facilities would also be put in place.

Town clerk Tendai Mahachi said the international community was happy with the Harare housing model adding that said he together with Masunda would present their model in Johannesburg, South Africa, next year for the benefit of the international community.

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