BY REX MPHISA
SCORES of Beitbridge civil servants continue to live in squalid conditions because government is taking long to officially hand over a cluster of houses built for its workers four months ago.
Some of the civil servants blame their housing nightmares on poor distribution and corruption in the allocation of the houses.
Some of the affected civil servants include nurses deployed to Beitbridge District Hospital at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nurses now live in hospital wards, risking contracting and spreading the virus.
National Housing minister David Garwe last Friday professed ignorance over the existence of vacant government houses at Beitbridge.
“Give me up to Monday and I will look into the issue. I am not aware there are houses that are vacant. I will give you a full answer on Monday. I will call you then,” Garwe said last week.
He, however, did not call. The housing project started in 2006 and the last batch of houses was completed four months ago.
So acute is Beitbridge’s accommodation shortage that it has compromised the privacy of key staff like magistrates, law officers and Zimbabwe Election Commission officials now renting rooms from residents.
A court official who spoke on condition of anonymity said their accommodation problems at the border town were compounded by lack of a housing policy where some junior staffers were living in houses above their grades.
“Several people at the district development coordinator’s office live in houses above their grades. Some houses tied to that office are not occupied by civil servants. The problem is at the department of Public Construction which has allowed the rot,” said the official.
An investigation by Southern Eye revealed that there were clerks living in managerial houses and one of them had two government houses.
A source at Beitbridge Hospital said clerks, who ordinarily should be locals with own accommodation, occupied houses in the nurses’ home, denying deserving nurses.
“We have non-essential staff occupying accommodation meant for essential staff. This is because some people employed their relatives who are not local people and have no accommodation.
They then give them hospital accommodation at the expense of nurses,” the source said.
New nurses at the hospital are worst affected and at times, share small rooms.
Head of Public Construction at Beitbridge Addmore Tlou said the new houses were ready for occupation, but they were awaiting directives from their bosses.
“We have 29 houses that are ready and we await instructions from our bosses. We are also waiting for water connection from the local authority, but all our systems are in place,” he said.
It is, however, understood some civil servants particularly from the President’s Office at Beitbridge have already allocated themselves the new houses.
Beitbridge has been experiencing remarkable growth and an increase in civil servants deployment, but the development of government accommodation and social services infrastructure does not correspond with the fast growth and worker deployment.
The Customs and Excise department rents a hotel and several other houses to provide for its staff in the border town.