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Joy, pain for Mabutweni residents

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WHILE the move by the Bulawayo City Council to transfer ownership of Mabutweni houses to sitting tenants has been greeted with joy by some residents of the suburb, others are crying foul, accusing the municipality of unfairness.

Blondie Ndebele

Residents of Mabutweni, one of Bulawayo’s oldest suburbs, have been at war with the council for decades, demanding that the houses be transferred to them, but that had always fallen on deaf ears.

News that the local authority was on the verge of selling the houses to sitting tenants should naturally have been met with joy, but instead the residents that have not benefited are plotting their next move.

“They should have done it fairly. We do not owe them (council) anything, but our houses are not being transferred,” Beatrice Chiwawa said.

“We were hoping that they would give us the option to buy as well because it has been long since we started making noise about these houses.”

As a condition to transfer the houses, council demanded that all tenants clear outstanding bills, something many were struggling with.

“We still owe the council a lot of money, but we also need our houses to be transferred. We have a right to these houses since we have been occupying them for a very long time now,” Sihle Phiri, an elderly tenant, said. “We will find the money and pay the debt.”

An elderly man, Fred Mpofu, who said he moved into Mabutweni in 1960, described the move as being unfair since people who had only recently settled in the suburb had their houses sold to them by council.

“It is not fair that I have been here from 1960 and yet my house is not on the list of people whose houses shall be transferred to them,” he bemoaned. “But my neighbours who came after me have benefited.”

But those that have benefited from the move were celebrating, saying the decision by the local authority was long overdue.

“We are happy that we are becoming the owners of these houses,” Qhawe Dube said.
“I was born here and my parents are now staying in the rural areas. We will now be able to do necessary renovations to the house since it will soon be ours.”
Albert Ngwenya, another beneficiary, said he moved into the council house in 1963 and had been paying rentals to the local authority since.

“It is now a very long time since we started staying here and now that it would be ours, we will have the power to do anything with it,” he said.

Bulawayo City Council has approved plans to sell 18 houses in Mabutweni, popularly known as Number 2, to sitting tenants for between $140 and $570.

A report submitted by the local authority’s Health, Housing and Education Committee, stated some of the houses could not be converted for home ownership before the local authority had provided proper ablution facilities, including requisite individual toilets and additional rooms.

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