Sunday, July 24, 2005

Blitz leaves Mbare's poor helpless


Mbare Musika had become home to scores of informal traders and vegetable vendors until a recent government decision to ban such activities through its Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth). The internationally condemned operation worsened already deteriorating living standards among residents of the suburb.

Last week, a representative of the Rhema Church, Reverend Ron Steele, and a member of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) fact-finding team to Zimbabwe was overawed by the destruction. Steele says of his visit to Mbare, what he witnessed was "just stand after stand and it was just rubble. It was pathetic. The flea market was deserted."

Being one of the pioneer working class suburbs in the capital, Mbare is home to the largest population of pensioners and the elderly among its 300 000 residents.

"The oldest identified pensioners are more than 87 years old. These are the founder fathers and mothers of the capital," says trade unionist Gift Chimanikire.

"The average monthly pension among most of the residents who formerly worked as housekeepers and general hands in the surrounding industries is below $50 000," he says.

To augment their meagre pensions, the majority of the residents constructed lean-tos and outbuildings to their main houses, living off rentals earned from lodgers.

Extremely hard times forced the elderly like Ramushu to move out from the main house into one of the three outbuildings to enable her to fend for six orphaned grandchildren.

Two of her daughters and a son, she says, died in the past three years, leaving behind six children of school-going age.

"I have struggled to send them to school, scrounging for money through vending. But the police chase me off the streets where I sell saying it is illegal," Ramushu bemoans.

"If I don't sell vegetables, the future of my grandchildren looks bleak."

Ramushu recalls how the suburb fostered its own genre of high-profile people who are now leaders in government, commerce and industry. She claims their parents could most probably have raised school fees through selling eggs, vegetables and fruit on the streets of Mbare. "Now that they are in positions of authority they want to deny my grandchildren similar opportunities to get educated," she says.

An estimated 30% of the population in the suburb comprises jobless youths that completed high school. Due to a collapsing economy, the high school graduates have bloated the ranks of the unemployed. Economists estimate Zimbabwe's unemployment figures at 80%..

No comments:

Free hit counters
Free hit counters