ROBERT Sinyoka, a stone throw away from Old Pumula, Bulawayo, can easily be mistaken for a rural area with dilapidated pole and dagga huts, no clinic, no shops and no electricity.
Robert Sinyoka, a peri-urban settlement, is neglected and almost forgotten.
To access the most basic of services, residents have to travel to the neighbouring Old Pumula suburb which boasts of neat houses, showing the unequal living standards of the two suburbs.
More than 70 years after it was first built, residents still rely on communal taps which they say were installed by the colonial Ian Smith government.
“It is like we are just emerging from a war situation when the government will be still trying to do research on where people are living and the kind of basic services they require,” Fortune Matewele, the Robert Sinyoka residents chairman said. “I don’t understand why I am living like I’m in a rural area when I’m in town.”
A bitter Matewele said they still had to use Blair toilets while neighbouring Pumula had water, flush toilets and electricity, a classic “tale of two cities”.
“We use Blair toilets here like in rural areas, but at least some villages have electricity, clinics and other basic services,” he lamented.
“We also need proper houses since the government promised us housing for all by the year 2000. We have been promised many times by successive MPs since independence that they would help us, but we are still living in these conditions.”
There are about 300 families in Robert Sinyoka, all relying on 10 community taps.
As if this is not bad enough, the taps hardly have water and the residents are forced to travel to Pumula where they are made to pay for water or fetch it from unsafe sources.
“Water is a problem here. The taps were put when the population was still small,” Matewele said. “We have totally outgrown these taps. They cannot serve us adequately.”
He said residents literally had to fight for water on the few days that it trickled from the taps.
Despite being close to Bulawayo, the settlement does not have electricity and the residents have to walk several kilometres in search of firewood, risking being mugged or arrested by Bulawayo City Council rangers.
“We have to travel to as far as Khami Dam in search of proper firewood. As you can see here, there are no trees which one can gather good firewood for cooking from,” Christian Ncube, the deputy residents’ chairperson noted.
“The council should allow us to fetch firewood without fear of arrest since we have no electricity. This is our source of light and cooking,”
A non-governmental organisation recently connected electricity to the local school, but the power is limited to the school block.
“The council says it does not have money to develop our area,” Ncube says worriedly. “We have been crying out for help since independence but to no avail. We are only hoping that maybe the next government after the elections will take us out from these living conditions.”
Bulawayo mayor ThabaMoyo said council did not have money to service the area.
“That area has not been serviced,” he said, adding that they could not lay water pipes unless the settlement was serviced.
Albert Mhlanga, the MDC- T legislator for the area said Robert Sinyoka was neglected because it was “no man’s land”.
“It was never clear whether these people should be under Bulawayo Council, Tsholotsho or Umguza,” he explained. “As such, that is why there was no development.”
Mhlanga said a new school will soon be built, while water pipes and taps for each household could not be fitted as the area has not been serviced.
ThabaniNyoni, the director of Bulawayo Agenda, said the Robert Sinyoka issue was part of the developmental and political problems that had faced the country.
“For example, we are still using bridges that were inherited from colonial government and we have noticed that the government and sister institutions have even failed to maintain them,” he said.
But while politicians argue, for settlers of Robert Sinyoka, development cannot come too so