BY SILAS NKALA
BULAWAYO’S overcrowded Sidojiwe Flats in Belmont have been condemned as unsafe for human habitation.
Mayor Solomon Mguni called for immediate decongestion of the overcrowded flats during a meeting organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The meeting, held on Monday, deliberated on co-ordinated protection, promotion and enforcement of human rights for citizens and vulnerable groups, including internally displaced persons.
Mguni said the situation at Sidojiwe Flats, built during the colonial era for the working class in the Belmont industrial area, was dire.
The flats, with a caring capacity of 200 families, now accommodate double the figure.
“Efforts to decongest the flats were hampered in 2005 by the untimely displacement of Bulawayo residents by operation Murambatsvina,” Mguni said.
“In 2004, Hostel 1 was closed and occupants were removed because the water reticulation system had collapsed and there were no resources to upgrade the system at the time.
“The occupants were relocated to other council-regulated houses in and around Bulawayo. Following the huge displacement of people through the Murambatsvina exercise, the place was re-occupied by those who had been affected by the scheme and had lost accommodation. Council reopened the block on humanitarian grounds to temporarily house part of the
He said this did not improve the lives of the people, but only kept them safe from inclement weather.
“While we acknowledge that this is not the ideal place for people to reside in this 21st century, the problem of human settlement is still with us and we urge partners here to come on board and assist us,” Mguni added.
“This is not the first time that we have people removed from unsuitable accommodation and they return. You will recall Mazwi village, where squatters were removed and new occupants came in and filled the places left vacant by those who were removed.”
The mayor said there was need for a permanent solution to accommodation problems dogging the city.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Affairs minister Judith Ncube hailed IOM and its partners for organising the event.
“This (Sidojiwe) was the bachelor accommodation for workers in Bulawayo industry of Belmont West, National Railways of Zimbabwe complex, Dunlop and Cold Storage Company, among others. As you may be aware, the increased modernisation of cities and townships exerted pressure on the existing housing units, not only in Bulawayo, but the world over,” she said.
Ncube said this had been worsened by the successive droughts which escalated the rural-urban migration. She urged stakeholders to join hands and improve the housing situation in the city.
Residents at the flats said their living conditions were appalling in that one room catered for two families, violating the right to privacy.