AT LEAST 800 New ZimSteel workers commemorated last weekend’s Workers’ Day under a cloud of uncertainty after they were issued with eviction notices by the Redcliff Municipality over rental arrears.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
This followed the termination of lease agreements with the families by the Freddy Kapuya-led council through its lawyers Willmot and Bennett last week, giving them four days to vacate the council-owned houses in Rutendo and Torwood suburbs.
“We have been informed that you remain in arrears despite demand to pay up. We have now been instructed to inform you of our client’s cancelation of lease and demand that you vacate the house forthwith . . .” the eviction notice read in part.
One of the affected workers, Definite Shoko, said he was now having sleepless nights as he had nowhere to secure alternative accommodation.
Shoko is one of the 3 000 former Ziscosteel workers who have not been paid since the company went dormant five years ago, with new investor, Essar Africa Holdings, still to honour its salary pledges.
“In 2014, we received $150 in allowances the whole year from our employer and it’s not a secret that we have not been receiving salaries for almost five years now yet council expects us somehow to find money to pay rentals,” he said.
Torwood Residents’ Association spokesperson Michael Maposa said the action taken by council was likely to cause a serious humanitarian catastrophe in the town.
“These homes were built by Ziscosteel on the back of steelworkers’ sweat and donated to council at no cost, yet this council now wants to turn the very workers who toiled to build the homes into homeless people because they have not been receiving salaries,” Maposa said. “Over 2 000 people will be left homeless and if this move does not create a humanitarian crisis, I don’t know what else can.”
Maposa also accused council of billing residents for non-existent services.
“Their bills contain water, refuse collection and street lighting, among other charges, and for the record, we have not had any running water in this part of town for the past year. We survive on open wells and boreholes. There are no lights here, neither do we know what refuse collection is. These bills are, therefore dubious and smack of robbery,” he said.
Residents have threatened to demonstrate against the planned mass evictions.
Deputy mayor Vincent Masiyiwa said council was divided over the eviction plans.
“This is an entirely Zanu PF move and all councilors from my party (MDC-T) did not participate in the making of this decision. We are against victimising the poor. Mayor Kapuya and myself are at crossroads here,” Masiyiwa said.