BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) says it is concerned about the ballooning population at Sidojiwe flats meant to accommodate 82 bachelors, but now houses more than 500 families.
The town planning department says Sidojiwe was historically designed to temporarily accommodate only 82 bachelors who worked in the city’s industrial sites.
"But by 2018, it started accommodating extended families of roughly over 500 people. Moreso, the residents revealed that they are facing a number of challenges and these are overcrowding, lack of privacy, congestion, psychological stress, teenage pregnancies and widespread diseases," a town planning department report titled A Review of Local Plan No 8 (industrial Areas), read.
In July last year, council ordered Sidojiwe flats residents to vacate the premises after the apartments were condemned as unsafe for human habitation in 2021 and decommissioned, but have been resisting.
Mayor Solomon Mguni last year called for immediate decongestion of the overcrowded flats at a meeting organised by the International Organisation for Migration.
At the meeting, Mguni described the situation at Sidojiwe flats as dire. The flats were built during the colonial era for the working class in the Belmont industrial area.
Council is currently collecting insignificant revenue in rentals from occupants at Sidojiwe as well as Burombo apartments, making it difficult to rehabilitate or adequately service the flats.
“There is lack of funding to revamp the two places, especially Sidojiwe. The challenge with the infrastructure in those areas is that it is old and dilapidated. We need capital funding to be able to attend to the needs of that infrastructure and to improve the amenities. So there is a funding gap in terms of meeting the fundamental infrastructure challenges there,” council said.
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At some point, council attempted to decongest the flats by giving out stands to the flat dwellers in places like Cowdray Park, but the flats have remained congested as poverty and economic hardships force many to stay put at the flats where rentals are relatively cheaper.