THE recent demolition of illegal structures in Mbare is beginning to give Harare’s oldest suburb a new face.
Mbare, which had over the years degenerated into a cesspit of disorder, crime and filth is experiencing an embryonic regeneration process characterised by the infusion of order and sanity.
The clean-up blitz, if sustained, is helping transform the suburb, albeit slowly.
Mbare has earned notoriety for mayhem and disorder owing to years of neglect by the Harare City Council.
Places like the Jo’burg lines, Nenyere, Shawasha, Matapi, Matererini and Mbare hostels were well known as hubs of filth and social degeneration.
Over the years, illegal structures that include tuckshops and shacks had covered nearly every inch of the suburb.
Crowding is commonplace.
Traffic congestion had become a common occurrence after informal traders encroached onto road servitudes, making navigation around Mbare a nightmare for motorists.
Mupedzanhamo, Magaba Home Industry, Shawasha and Matapi Flats had become breeding grounds for criminal activities.
A fortnight ago, council bulldozers were deployed to demolish all illegal structures in the suburb in an operation meant to bring back order and sanity.
Some of the shacks that were destroyed had become havens for illicit drug peddlers.
Following the recent clean-up exercise, Mbare is slowly regaining its allure.
Aaron Gobvu, who stays at the Matererini Flats, said numerous accidents which occurred close to his home were a result of informal traders encroaching into and blocking the road.
“Recently a primary school pupil was killed, while two adults were critically injured after being hit by a speeding vehicle at Shawasha grounds,” he said.
“Now that the road has been cleared by the City of Harare, we hope these incidents won’t happen again.”
He said council should quickly provide traders, whose structures were destroyed, alternative space to operate from to ensure that they do not return to operating along road servitudes.
“The roads need attention and the traders also need somewhere to continue with their business since most of us here survive on doing informal jobs like buying and selling”
Another resident Norah Mupeni said locals were worried about the proliferation of drug peddlers in their community.
She said the clean-up operation had, for the time being, helped reduce hideouts for illicit drug peddlers.
“People were now using these shacks to hide their underground business of selling dangerous drugs,” she said.
“You would notice that most people would display snacks on the vending sheds but would instead be selling drugs to our children.”
She said others who had built shacks attached to their houses were using them as brothels.
“There was an increase in the number of people renting rooms close to the bus rank along Jo’burg lines and around the Tsiga area,” she said.
Small business owners who ran legitimately registered businesses said the demolition of illegal structures was good for their operations.
They said tthey hd been losing out to unregistered traders who were operating from undesignated areas.
“Every business should pay taxes to both council and Government, people should follow by-laws and not do business outside the confines of the same law,” said Tatenda Vhenge who runs a registered timber and cement shop at the Magaba Home Industry.
When The Sunday Mail visited Mbare last week, traders that previously operated along road servitudes were nowhere to be seen.
However, second hand clothes traders had swarmed around the residential hostels where they continued with their enterprises.
But the makeshift stalls that previously covered the length and breadth of Mbare had been reduced to ash.
Police were seen occasionally driving away vendors who were not adhering to the new normal.
Harare Provincial Development Coordinator Mr Tafadzwa Muguti told The Sunday Mail that Government would not allow traders to continue disregarding the law.
“The goal is to make sure that we have a provincial economy that benefits everyone.
“We can’t develop a provincial economy with lawlessness,” he said.
Mr Muguti said council would never regularise operations on road servitudes.