Bulawayo City Council ultimatum riles squatters

SQUATTERS living in Trenance suburb have accused the Bulawayo City Council of abusing them and treating them like animals.

Report by Pamela Mhlanga

This development comes after deputy mayor Amen Mpofu on Sunday reportedly gave the squatters a three-day ultimatum, ordering them to leave Trenance or face forced eviction by council rangers who would destroy all new illegal settlements in the area.

The illegal settlers have up to today to find alternative accommodation, as the local authority was threatening to run down their shanty town.

In separate interviews with Southern Eye yesterday, the disgruntled squatters said the notice was unfair and a violation of their human rights.

One of the squatters, Lwakhe Moyo, said it was disheartening to note that the council was bent on abusing them and unfairly driving them out of the area.

“This is ridiculous. They know we have nowhere else to go when they force us out of Trenance,” Moyo said. “Where are we expected to turn to when they destroy our only shelters?”

Trenance is already home to hundreds of squatters, but the eviction order is only meant for new settlers, while the older ones can stay put.

Girly Mathe said claims that there was an emergence of new squatters in the area was not true and the ultimatum was confusing.

“It is confusing to us for Mpofu to claim that there were new people who have recently invaded Trenance as a strategy to get homesteads at Mazwi,” she said.

“We are all squatters who have been here from long back, but it is only that some squatters had to move from lodgings in Trenance and recently built shelters from corrugated iron, there is no such thing as new squatters.”

Mathe said every squatter was hoping to be relocated to Mazwi, but they were pained to hear that council had given them the three-day ultimatum to move or face forced eviction.

Another squatter, Pilate Manxeba, claimed that Mpofu was politicising the issue.

“Mpofu had earlier on promised us that he was going to stand by us, but that meeting on Sunday turned into a mocking session because he had realised that we did not support him in his campaign for the senatorial position,” Manxeba said.

“He is not doing anything for the area, but has instead discarded us like dirty rags.”

Thokozile Msize challenged the council and the deputy mayor to address the squatters door to door and vet them so that they find out who deserves to go.

“We are not going anywhere until the council faces us and tells us what is really going on and who exactly have been labelled as new squatters because as far as I am concerned, no one deserves to go,” she said.

The squatters said the first phase of the relocation was unfairly conducted and there was corruption as some people who did not deserve to be given new homesteads had benefited and a lot of deserving squatters had not.

Contacted for comment, Mpofu said he had not seen the new illegal squatters himself, but had heard reports that there was a woman identified as Miss Banda misinforming the public that if they wanted places at Mazwi, they should first invade Trenance.

He said those faceless new squatters were not wanted in the area, but he was just giving out the three-day ultimatum to get them on their feet, although he knew it was going to take time and there were certain procedures to be followed.

“People must be misinformed, but I am not politicising anything,” Mpofu said.

“Of course I swore to protect the squatters who have been living at Trenance for years and that is what I am doing, but it is a different tale for those who have reportedly recently invaded the place after being ill-informed by Miss Banda.”

In April, a group of Zanu PF supporters invaded council’s Mazwi Nature Reserve where they allocated themselves residential stands before they were evicted by the police.

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