Harare flood victims say state has abandoned them

One of the rooms in Esther Phiri’s house collapsed after the rains. (Shamiso Mupara, GroundUp)
One of the rooms in Esther Phiri’s house collapsed after the rains. (Shamiso Mupara, GroundUp)

Shamiso Mupara, GroundUp

Harare – Three weeks of incessant rain have collapsed houses and caused unsanitary conditions that are causing residents of Harare’s townships to fear for their health.

GroundUp reports that the informal settlement of Hopley Farm, home to many of the people pushed out of the centre of Harare by President Robert Mugabe’s Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, is badly affected.

Kudakwashe Chingoro says his entire monthly food stock is ruined. “Soil seeped into flour and rice buckets. I threw out our entire food.”

His four children’s bedroom collapsed.

“I thank God no one was inside. We could be counting bodies.”

Chingoro is repairing the house so he does not have to spend more nights sharing a room with his children. He fears new health dangers from the ruined septic tank system.

Toilets are overflowing, putting residents at risk of cholera and typhoid. No one has come to help.

A representative of the Harare City Town Clerk, Bothwell Petro, says he is unaware of the effect of the rain on Hopley Farm.

“Our social services department will investigate soon.”

A spokesperson for the City Health Department terminated a call with this reporter, after demanding: “Who told you we ignore people affected by floods?”

Margaret Majuru’s belongings, including beds, clothes and blankets, were damaged when her house collapsed on the afternoon of January 16.

She is raising her four grandchildren aged 5, 12, 14 and 17. Her own children have all died.

Her broken toilet is her biggest concern as she fears it will breed disease. She and her family cover the toilet with plastic to get some privacy.

Margaret Majuru stands in front of what remains of her house.(Shamiso Mupara, GroundUp)

Positive side

Esther Phiri, 85, says it has been raining non-stop for three weeks. The room her five grandchildren sleep in has been destroyed and everyone is sleeping in her bedroom. 

Esther’s older granddaughter however finds a positive side to the rain.

“Though dirty, the rain eases the water problems and thirst that we experience all year round.”

They have not received any help from any state organisations. She fears if the rain continues, they will lose her grandmother’s bedroom and be left homeless.

Baba Leon and his wife spent Christmas in Masvingo, 200km from Harare. They left their children in Harare.

“The rains brought down our house three days ago, in our absence. Luckily the children were at school. Wardrobe, kitchen, beds – all is finished.”

Max Taruvinga has a wife and two children aged three and six. One of the walls of their rented room collapsed. He had to move in with some of his friends while his wife and children went to live with their aunt.

“Our main fear is cramming into other people’s houses that are also on the brink of collapsing.”

Mai Mercy, 34, an unemployed mother of four children, lost her home in the heavy rains on January 17. Her husband abandoned the family when the house collapsed.

“My worst nightmare is: the friend’s house where we are taking refuge is showing huge cracks," Mercy says.

Amos Dapi is a school teacher who owns Dapi College in Hopley, with 172 students from grades 1 to 7. The school lost its only two classrooms and teaching is taking place in a shed owned by a church.

Dapi’s own house has partially collapsed. He, his wife and 18-year-old daughter have to sleep in the same room.

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