HomeLocal NewsChitown blast victims get new lease of life

Chitown blast victims get new lease of life

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WEEPING may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. When King David coined Psalm 30:5, little did he know that in another lifetime, in lands far flung from ancient Israel, his song would be sung by three Chitungwiza families after walking through the fire and back.

Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi

One moment, their houses were intact. The next minute, one had been razed to the ground and two other reduced to shells. That was after a mysterious blast ripped through seven houses in Zengeza 2’s Ndororo Street, killing five people instantly and leaving others scarred.

The most affected houses, belonging to the Dumba, Magaya and Zarengera families, were so shredded that the remains had to be pulled down, too.

And this marked the beginning of a life lived in the open, contending with all the varying moods of the weather: the scorching heat, the biting cold and the beating rain.

Promises were made that resources would be pulled together and those who lost their homes would have roofs over the heads again. It is only now that Violet Dumba (37), one of the victims, has a reason to believe.

With the thud of the picks sinking into the soil as builders from the local municipality dig the foundation, Dumba hears the sound of her heart beating in rhythm. It is the sound of hope.
“Now that work has started to rebuild my house, my heart is filled with joy,” she says.

“I had lost hope that anything would happen. But today I am excited because I have been remembered.”

Since January, when the blast ripped through the houses, Dumba and her family of five have been living in tents donated by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS).

It has not been easy, as Dumba confesses, especially if one has to care for a nine-month-old baby.

“My baby contracted a cold because of the conditions under which we were living,” she told NewsDay.

“So I had to look for shelter elsewhere for a while.”

Although neighbours have been good to them, to strangers, they became the butt of crude jokes.

“You can’t wear red and come to this place,” a passenger in a passing kombi was heard remarking once, “because red attracts lightning.”

According to one of the many theories coined to explain the source of the explosion, was one which contended that the blast resulted from a botched attempt to “create” lightning in an act of witchcraft.

The most affected houses are close to the main road used by commuter omnibuses that ply the City-Zengeza 4 (PaGomba) route.

But despite everything, Dumba today feels vindicated. “By the end of June, I will be applying floor polish in my house,” brags the confident beneficiary.

Winters in Chitungwiza, which has many vleis, are often harsh, and against that backdrop, Dumba’s dream to be housed by end of June is understandable. Already, one can smell the scent of the approaching winter, particularly at dawn and dusk.

Dumba’s target, according to ZRCS public relations officer Takemore Mazuruse, is reasonable.

“By end of June, we should be done. But at the moment, we don’t yet have all the resources we need. We appeal to philanthropists to come and assist because we still need more,” he said.

“Your $1 will make a difference because it can buy a packet of nails.”

Agnes Magayo (55), whose house was also caught up in the crossfire, is a happy woman. In all that is happening now, she sees a divine hand behind it all.

“I am excited that God has intervened so that we can have a good, habitable home. These people who are assisting us are just being used by God,” she said on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the three core houses.

The mother of seven, however, concurs with Dumba that it has not been easy.

“The cold has been harsh, especially for our children. We didn’t have proper ablution facilities as well. We were worried that there was possibility we could contract diseases such as cholera,” she said.

The spectre of the macabre cholera harvest of 2008-2010, which claimed over 4 000 lives in this dormitory town, 27km from Harare, still hovers over the residents who daily contend with water shortages.

Magayo, who has lived here since 1975, said they had resorted to using firewood for cooking, but access to water remains their major challenge.

“We got firewood from council once, but would buy more for R5, but we have no water because the tap is hardly functional. It’s only available on Tuesdays, without water cholera is a threat,” she said.

The blast killed traditional healer Speakmore Mandere, seven-month-old Kelly Chimina, businessman Clever Kamudzeya, police officer Aleck Shamu and Sticks Chitanha, a barman at a local five-star hotel.

Reverend Godfrey Gaga of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and a member of Chitungwiza Pastoral Fraternity described the reconstruction of the houses as a fulfilment of the scriptures.

“What happened here was frightening,” he says. “But we are happy to say that reconstruction is taking place in love and peace. This means there is a time for
everything, a time to pluck out and a time to rebuild.”

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