Demolitions: Government should ease residents’ stress

Mbarte demolitions

By Johannes Marisa
STRESS is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is very bad and if it continues unabated one can develop many complications that include sexual dysfunction, exhaustion, digestive problems, persistent headaches, suicidal tendencies, worsening pre-existing conditions among other things.

Mental health is rampant in this world. Many lives have been lost over the years which could have been saved had people accessed the services of the right people like psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counsellors. There are many causes of stress that do not require medical experts to solve but need mutual understanding between warring parties.

Lately, there was a message circulating on social media about the impending demolitions of all houses built in Arlington and Retreat suburbs that are in close proximity to the airport. The buildings in Arlington are up-market and very attractive and it is my belief that owners of such houses used hundreds of thousands of the scarce US dollar to construct them. It would be unfortunate to have such magnificent houses razed to the ground yet government is promoting infrastructural development.

It would be inhumane to demolish houses in Waterfalls’ Retreat suburb where thousands of people are residing. The City of Harare has a fast-growing population against a slowly-growing infrastructure hence the over-crowdedness that is currently causing headaches to city fathers. All this can be traced to rural-urban migration as people seek opportunities in the city. The question is: Where does one stay when the rentals in the heart of the city are beyond the reach of many?

With the notice to demolish being publicised, how many home owners in the suburbs concerned are sleeping peacefully? How many have already gone into depression? How many are already feeling the heat of the stress? Hypertension is one condition that is aggravated by stress. Complications of hypertension can arise and these include strokes (Cerebrovascular accidents), renal failure, heart failure or even death. Peptic ulcer disease can worsen with consequent internal bleeding. Patients can, thus, develop long-term complications like anaemia at a time when blood is scarce at the National Blood Services. It is, thus, imperative to avoid stress that has the potential to cause permanent damage to many people.

Health delivery service is not at its best, especially in the public sector where there is very high staff turnover as workers seek greener pastures abroad. Nurses are leaving in droves for countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand with 2021 having been the worst year given that more than 2 100 workers left Zimbabwe for greener pastures. Government should move with speed to address the staff turnover calamity. The reasons behind that are well known, but there seems to be no political will yet our hospitals are operating with skeleton staff.

There should be retention strategies where workers enjoy benefits that include good remuneration, residential stands, school fees allowances, car loans or allowances, duty-free schemes. Health workers are regarded as essential services who carry the tag forever. Why not remunerate them accordingly? COVID-19 was a menace but medical practitioners managed to contain it despite limited resources. It is time government honoured its health workers, be they in the public or private sector.

It is my plea to the  Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution secretary Tafadzwa Muguti to consider the plight of the residents of Arlington and Retreat to avoid acrimony between government and its people. Government-residents engagement is a noble and there is no one who refuses to comply with government directives considering the costs involved in the construction of such houses.

Many people were tricked by land barons who siphoned millions of dollars from them, alas, the land barons walk scot-free after using the same money to hire the best lawyers to defend themselves in courts. Why are we blaming the end-users when the suppliers are continuing with their games? Punishing the drug abusers alone without taking a look at the suppliers of the prohibited drugs will not solve the problem. Imagine having all those houses in Arlington destroyed during the rainy season. The effects are horrible and can range from health, economic, social, psychological hence the need to find amicable solutions that bring relief to the unfortunate homeowners.

Regularisation is the solution. Government should not repeat the Melfort scenario where hundreds of neat houses were razed to the ground in 2021. We gain nothing as a nation that is struggling to achieve as much as possible. Why do we opt for the destructive route instead of an amicable solution? Many people lost thousands of dollars in Melfort and no compensation has been given until now. What is the way forward for Melfort as it is now a forest again?

Let us unite to develop Zimbabwe. Demolitions are never the solutions to our problems they will only work to further impoverish our people.

  • Johannes Marisa is the president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.