Women, girls bear the brunt of demolitions

SHARON Mapepo (16) sits anxiously on a sofa, taking in what is happening. The rains pound her family’s shack, which has been her home since November 2015. Her three younger siblings are sitted, playing with different objects.

BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA

At intervals, sharon looks helplessly at the roof that is periodically betraying her — leaking at different points. She wonders what her “O”Level results due next month will bring.

“I do not even know what we are going to do. I thought maybe if I pass, I would go for “A” Level and perhaps proceed to university, but that was before August when the first round of demolitions occurred,” she says with resignation on her voice.

Sharon is the first born in a family of four and her family fell victim to demolitions sanctioned by Harare City Council at Budiriro’s Tembwe Housing Co-operative after they were told they had built houses at a site reserved for a school.

At first, her parents managed to erect a decent makeshift cottage, but then it was demolished again after a few months, leaving them penniless.

Now her father has had to do with thin roofing sheets on the sides of the shack just to make sure his family has a roof over their heads.

Sharon feels that apart from all the ills surrounding her family’s situation, their community is to blame.

“Some are even happy that we are leaving. I remember one woman saying the ‘rubbish’ is now being taken away while our house was being demolished. The grader was right inside our house and someone had the guts to say something like that in our faces instead of helping,” she lamented.

She said when their house was first demolished; it became difficult for her to concentrate even in class as she prepared for her “O” Level exams.

Budiriro demolitions

“We had to start from scratch. And when they demolished the second time, it was worse. I imagine sometimes if we are the only family living like this. It is difficult to even raise school fees now,” she said.

The teenager feels heavily violated sharing the same room with her father and has to remain in bed until he goes out to maintain some dignity.

“I feel terrible. I have never experienced such a situation and I feel my rights are being trampled on as a girl child. There is no privacy. The room is divided by a curtain and my father wakes up early in the morning and leaves before we are up, so at least he enjoys a bit of privacy,” she said.

“Our bathroom was also destroyed, so even when I bathe in the makeshift bathroom, I fear that one day it will be blown away by wind and we will be left in the open.”

The Harare City Council last year demolished hundreds of houses in different suburbs evoking memories of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina that left 700 000 people homeless.

This year, the demolitions look set to continue with several housing schemes still to be regularised while land barons continue to prowl using the political card to bulldoze and muzzle local authorities.

The government has been blamed by several civic organisations and ordinary Zimbabweans for paying lip service instead of dealing decisively with the challenges.

On the other hand, affected residents have also cried foul over claims by the local authority that their properties were illegal when they had the requisite papers and receipts of payments made to the same council.

Hardest hit, however, are the women and children who have to contend with the harsh realities of sleeping in the open, squatting when they are supposed to be legally settled, thereby stripping them of their dignity.

Thousands of girls have the same fate as Sharon, only that their stories are never told due to their reserved nature.

Simbarashe Moyo of the combined Harare Residents’ Trust said law enforcement agents have been operating as if everything should be done according to their whims.

He said while Zimbabweans are statistically proven to be one of the most literate people, it does not show in the manner in which local authorities are being run and in the way in which the central government superintends local authorities.

Moyo said although some rights like shelter, which are natural rights, are also enshrined in the bill of rights in the constitution of Zimbabwe, authorities have been wantonly breaching the same charter they claim to enforce.

“You cannot be evicted from your place arbitrarily without due process, but what have we been seeing? People operating as if everything should be done according to their whims and caprices without being bound by the law,” he said.

“What it does is, it hardens the people and very soon the people will try to move out. When that happens, we know who is going to lose.”

Gender activist Nyaradzo Mashayamombe said the fate of females has been her reason for advocating against demolitions.

“There is no one more vulnerable than a homeless woman who is desperate. First of all, the current situation where a 16-year-old girl lives and sleeps with her parents in the same room is dehumanising, it exposes her to vulnerabilities and is also disrespectful,” she said.

“Secondly, when a family loses their investment to demolitions, it means several things: that the council may not have done their job to monitor illegal structures. It also means the parents went against the law to establish structures using illegal methods.

“At the end of the day, this may be desperation signs of a population that’s looking to survive. Under normal circumstances, the city council is expected to only demolish structures after those affected have secured alternative accommodation to maintain human dignity.”

She said council’s actions were reckless and warned that they could be sued for violation of human rights.

6 Responses to Women, girls bear the brunt of demolitions

  1. Nikki January 20, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, could you please take up this case and sue these so called authorities stripping others off human dignity. This is inhuman! I pray these heartless leaders face the wrath of God and the same fate befall them one way or another, they shall never have peace as long as the nation continues to cry!
    I pray they reap the evil they saw in tonnes!

    • Wake up January 20, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) will not take up such cases because ZLHR is funded by foreigners in order to protect western interests. Thus, they will not take action against a City Council which is led by the MDC western puppets, MDC western puppets that get their funding from the same source as ZLHR. It would be like the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. It would be like you being determined to bite the hand that was feeding you.

  2. Magigwana, Soshangana outpost January 20, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    And these structures illegally facilitated by dubious housing co-ops, could not be regularised? Why do you behave worse than Smith Regime’s protected villages schemes? Try to be a bit ethical in your governance of local authorities. You are not dealing with animals please. Why not arrest the land barons and make them compensate for all this loss?

  3. Mvhotoki January 20, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    There is no need to single out women and girls in this issue. Demolitions affect families period.Families include women, girls, men and boys. It is cruel to render any human being homeless. On the other hand, all these people now showing concern for the victims are also to blame. Communities need to be provided with correct information/checklist of what they must look out for before they start any building in cities, towns etc (as a way of advocacy against demolitions). Not one organization is investing in awareness raising as more and more people become victims- then we start shedding crocodile tears in the comfort of our nice homes. The girl victim cited in this article is still suffering because none of these gender activists or commentators has cared to provide her with alternative accommodation. We are all good at this, writing and commenting- no real action!Meanwhile, somewhere in Harare or other towns another illegal/corrupt settlement is sprouting up and after demolitions we will mourn again???

  4. Gtmaumbe January 20, 2016 at 8:27 pm #

    Local government minister should stop the mess created by his predecessor Chombo who messed everything in his way under the watch full eyes of that educated fool Mugabe who had put him there only to steal just imagine how much wealth he accumulated when he was minister of local government under that fool Mugabe’s watch Kasukuwere should just say to those councillors you were there in the offices watching people building houses they can not pretend they never saw it you either compensate or get fired

  5. sambiri January 20, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    There nothing the council could have done as the devil’s advocate Chombo and ZPF were galvanising on their political tools and allowing their cronies to be above the law and swindle every poor person out their hard earned money. You needed a ZPF card to access a piece of land at High Glen, where Gomwe was suedo king and all others Musindo,Fengu, etc where you get a stand after paying $50. It was evident that someone is being duped and that is where we start from rather rubbish the council and misdirect our efforts. Lack of accountability and poor governance is the issue and until we face up with that reality we will continue the blame game for ever and long.

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