Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.

CHITUNGWIZA resident Tracy Manyonga (39) may have just finished building her own home — the dream status of many home-seekers — but she still has nagging worries. Munyonga is among scores allocated stands in an area now known as Pagomba because of its location in a low-lying wetland in Zengeza 4.

But their joy at becoming “landlords,” the common name for house owners, has been overshadowed by woes as they endure discomfort living in perennially damp houses and counting their losses as the wet conditions damage their furniture.

“Running water flowed into my dining room last year and destroyed my property,” Manyonga, a mother of four said.
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
She claimed that during last year’s rainy season, she lost property worth more than $2 000 and wonders how much more she will lose in subsequent summers.

Winter too comes with its own woes. “In winter, it is extremely cold because the area where our house was constructed is very damp,” Manyonga said. “We improvise through lighting of mbaura (braziers). We risk contracting chronic diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.”

One of the 14 000 houses that were last year earmarked for demolition, Manyonga’s house looks like it was built ages ago with walls stained due to perennial dampness while a green moss has formed on the lower areas.
“This house is not very old,” she explains. “It is the land where it was constructed which is very wet and the house is taking the colour of algae because we are practically on water. The walls of our house are cracking because maybe the builders did not use the correct material that should have been used for buildings constructed on wetlands.”

Another house owner, Godfrey Chipunza, said their challenges were not only restricted to the rain as the area was a breeding ground for mosquitoes in summer.
“Mosquitoes easily get into my home through the open roof and family members are now used to mosquito bites,” he said.

The Rusenza family from St Mary’s burn eucalyptus leaves to repel mosquito risking suffocation.

“We burn gum trees when we cannot afford to buy mosquito coil. The problem is that sometimes the odour is too strong especially for our minors,” Dadirai Rusenza said.
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
Thousands of desperate home seekers were allocated stands in various open spaces in Chitungwiza after resorting to underhand deals with council officials as the local authority battled to clear a huge housing backlog.

They consider themselves lucky as some have lost their savings of many years to unscrupulous property barons, fake housing agents and corrupt co-operative officials. In many instances the new residential areas have turned out to be unfit for human habitation or not designated for residential purposes.

In November 2013, former Local government minister Ignatius Chombo appointed a 23 member team led by Ronald Chimowa to audit the land allocation scam in Chitungwiza and Seke rural.

After the team presented its findings to the authorities on January 16, 2014, Chitungwiza Municipality adopted the land audit report approving the demolition of close to 14 000 houses that were constructed in undesignated places. Eight days later, the authorities began demolitions in Chitungwiza’s Zengeza 5 suburb where two houses were razed down.

The houses built on wetlands, beneath power lines, on top of sewer and drainage pipes, places reserved for recreational facilities, shopping centres and churches were later spared following a court interdict and protests by residents, Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) and other civil society organisations.

Chitrest demanded that the municipality provide alternative land for the new homeowners. Director Marvelous Khumalo said politicians should desist from abusing the electorate and creating problems that would haunt desperate home seekers in the long run.

“It is the same policy makers that are allocating these stands but come elections they turn against the very same people after winning elections,” Khumalo said.

“What we are against is for the local authority to leave these people in the open because they deserve shelter.”
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
Woes mount for desperate Chitungwiza home-seekers.
Tatenda Gore, whose house was built beneath a power line, conceded his family was living in constant danger.

“There is nothing that I can do because it is the need for accommodation that saw me taking up this stand,” he said.

Chitungwiza town clerk, George Makunde urged home-seekers to follow the correct procedure and approach relevant offices when applying for stands.

“The local authorities are the ones who are better placed to allocate people stands for the construction of their homes because they are the ones who know the designated places for human habitation,” Makunde said.

“Of course there are some individuals within the local authorities who in the past wanted to get money through unscrupulous means, that ended up allocating people stands where it is not even suitable to construct houses.”

He said the local authority would continue calling on residents to stop constructing houses at undesignated sites.

Environment Management Authority (EMA) environment and awareness manager Steady Kangata urged prospective home-owners to follow environmental regulations and avoid building in unsuitable areas such as wetlands.

“Wetlands are the fountains of water that help in flood control and water purification. It is wrong for people to build their houses on them,” Kangata said.

“Besides flaking foundations which are a risk to the families residing in those areas, families residing at these sites are drinking water from shallow wells dug at their homes.”

A home-owner in Unit J, Dereck Maponga, said he did not bother getting connected to the local authority’s water supply system as water was hardly available. He uses water from a borehole he dug at his house.

“I have never approached council to be connected because their service is very poor,” Maponga said.

“Residents who are connected to council’s water system queue at my gate asking for water and I am better off not connected lest I pay for services that I do not even get.”

A fellow resident Christina Muchiya said the fact that the location of her stand was in a wetland was a boon for her.

“I’m not even worried about council water because it is contaminated and only comes two days a week,” she said.

“The local authorities are the ones who are better placed to allocate people stands for the construction of their homes because they are the ones who know the designated places for human habitation.”

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