BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
REGULARISATION of more than 10 000 illegal houses in Epworth, and plans to construct 20 flats in the area is expected to give reprieve to thousands of families that face displacements.
In 2019, the Epworth Local Board announced plans to regularise illegal structures and service stands.
Epworth Local Board chairperson Gift July told NewsDay during a media tour of Epworth last week that criminals in the area were also taking advantage of illegal settlements to commit crimes, and using them as hiding places.
He said 120 000 people out of an estimated Epworth population of over 200 000 live on stands that have not been regularised.
“These illegal settlements are crime hotspots and the illegal houses are havens for sex work. Due to poverty, many people in such houses ventured into sex work. Most people who commit crimes come and hide here,” July said.
“We are going to remove all these houses that are being used as brothels as we move to have the settlements regularised. We are doing our planning while residents are in the houses, and they are the ones that will fund the programme. For example, we would engage residents to hire a surveyor.
“Working with the Ministry of Local Government, we are going to build 20 blocks of flats. The ministry intervened because we don’t have the financial capacity to achieve that.”
July said the local authority was working hard to change the tarnished image of Epworth.
“We built vending markets called ‘Safe Markets’ in efforts to stop ladies of the night from trading their bodies. We also worked with ZRP Epworth and introduced the neighbourhood watch committee. Police are also doing night patrols to flush out crime,” he said.
“We also introduced a programme for self-help projects with the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa and her Angel of Hope Foundation, which was also assisted by the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU). Participants were issued with certificates by ZOU. The aim is to make the people venture into safe income-generating activities and eventually improve their lives.”
July also revealed that Epworth had since made an application to the Local Government ministry for town status as its population has been growing.
Epworth police’s victim unit friendly co-ordinator Judith Mukewa expressed optimism that through concerted efforts being made by police working with the Epworth Local Board, the area would be rid of illegal sex workers.
“We hope that by the end of 2022, no woman will be standing here to trade her body. We want a crime-free Epworth. I am happy that the number of sex workers has dropped. This shows that people heeded the call to end that. This could be because of the introduction of safe markets as well,” she said.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties Drug Network Epworth Support Group revealed that there was rampant drug abuse in the area and called for rehabilitation centres for young people to be set up in the area. The group also said drug abuse was forcing young women to resort to sex work.
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