MABUTHWENI and Iminyela residents in Bulawayo have dismissed as cheap politicking the governments’ urban renewal plans that will see it demolish colonial era dwellings and build decent houses.
Residents of the two suburbs live in unhealthy conditions 34 years after independence with about 40 families sharing a single communal toilet.
Families of up to 10 people share single rooms in conditions that residents said exposed them to diseases. Home Affairs deputy minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said such overcrowded and inhumane living conditions would be a thing of the past as part of the government implemented its economic blueprint ZimAsset.
Ziyambi told the National Assembly on behalf of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing minister Ignatius Chombo that Mabuthweni and Iminyela were earmarked for “urban renewal”.
However, residents quickly dismissed the statements as mere politicking.
“I have been living here for the past 47 years and conditions are deteriorating daily. We have instances where a block of housing units with close to 40 people is sharing one dilapidated toilet. People queue all the time to use the toilet that has no door. People bring blankets to use as a door,” Iminyela resident Johnson Sibanda, told Southern Eye.
Sibanda said most of the toilets at the flats operated on a bucket system as the flushing system long became dysfunctional.
Another resident Sithabile Dube said the conditions were unbearable.
“I share one small room with my husband, four children and mother-in-law. It’s unbearable, but we are now used to it. As you can see, the toilet has no roof and water leaks continuously. We also queue to use the toilet. Tuberculosis is spreading fast here,” Dube said.
A Southern Eye crew saw raw sewage gushing out of several toilets and children playing close by during a visit. Mpopoma-Pelandaba MP Bekithemba Nyathi raised alarm about the dilapidated conditions of Mabuthweni-Iminyela flats in Parliament saying the old colonial era dwellings now posed a health hazard due to overcrowding.
Responding on behalf of Chombo, Ziyambi said ZimAsset would “renew” old suburbs such as Mabuthweni and Iminyela.
“Prior to independence, blacks had no permanent tenure or residence in urban areas. They were allocated temporary accommodation in such areas like Mabuthweni and Iminyela in Bulawayo, Mbare in Harare, to mention but a few, with shared communal ablution for the duration of their working contracts in the cities and towns,” Ziyambi said.
“The post-independence period witnessed the abolition of the discriminatory legislation which denied blacks the right to own property in urban areas. However, these old residential estates have over the years become blighted and dilapidated and have become an eyesore.
“Equally, over the years, the government has been implementing the housing upgrading programme whose intention is to enable these estates to be upgraded to conventional housing estates. The upgrading programme involves demolition of these structures and replacing them with new self-contained housing units.
“The programme is basically funded from the fiscus and has been affected by inadequate funding over the years due to the parlous economic outlook and other competing government priorities. The case of Mabuthweni and Iminyela will certainly be addressed under the ZimAsset agenda,” Ziyembi said.
An Iminyela resident Mzondeki Nyoni said: “I watched the debate on television on Wednesday. We have seen governments come and go and the situation not improving. Where does the current government think it will get the money to finance the project?
“Soon after independence, donors gave money to the government to renovate these flats, but nothing happened as we heard it was diverted to Masvingo. They only talk in Parliament, but really don’t care about us.”