15 years on Vic Falls Operation Murambatsvina victims still await housing

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Fifteen years ago Fayton Ncube watched helplessly as a bulldozer razed down his house in Victoria Falls’ Chinotimba suburb.

Ncube was among hundreds of informal settlers in the resort town, who had their homes and business premises destroyed as part of Operation Murambatsvina.

The clampdown that targeted informal settlements in 2005 affected more than 750 000 people countrywide and met with global condemnation.

Ncube says he still remembers his ordeal vividly and government and the local authority have not delivered on their promise to facilitate the provision of better shelter for his family.

“Our child was one week old when they destroyed our house,” he narrated.

“We were homeless until my boss took us to his place where he accommodated us in a storeroom, and this is where we are still staying.”

Ncube said after the demolition of his house, he together with other victims of the operation were told to start paying various amounts to the Victoria Falls Municipality towards the purchase of housing stands.

“I was hoping that the council would do something to solve our accommodation problems, but it has been 15 years and we have nothing to show for it,” he said.

“We were given stand numbers after those payments, but council has been allocating stands to many people without considering us.”

Everylin Sibanda (53) said she suffered a double tragedy after her house was destroyed, which she said led to the death of her 13-year-old son, who was autistic.

“They burnt everything including my house,” Sibanda who resided in Kinshasa camps said

“My late son was autistic and when police pounced, they just torched the house before we could get out and we both sustained severe burns

“He did not get any medical assistance and he died a year later.

“We have not been given the option of resettling elsewhere.”

She is also still waiting for the government to deliver on its promise to provide her with alternative accommodation.

Ndabezinhle Sibanda from also from Kinsasha area also had a similar story to tell and is unhappy about government’s failure to give them alternative accommodation.

“We spent several days sleeping on the roadside with my family and other victims,” Ndabezinhle said.

“Thieves took advantage of the situation and stole all our property.”

The three residents said they were among thousands of desperate home seekers who registered for housing stands or houses that were being provided by central government and the local authority in 2005 under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.

They were expected to pay monthly subscriptions while they waited for council to deliver, but up to now nothing has materialised.

“They did not bother to consider us when stands were available,” Ndabezinhle lamented.

“Only Zanu PF youths and security officials who had participated in the operation benefitted and this has affected us a lot.

” The wounds are still fresh, and they are not doing anything to right the wrongs.”

The victims believe the few people that benefited from Operation Garikai housing scheme were civil servants and Zanu PF members.

“I remember paying $1000 but when the time to allocate stands came, they were given to police officers and Zanu Pf officials,” one of victims, Elmon Nyoni claimed.

“Originally they said Kinsasha was a transit camp.

“Council said it was identifying land for us to move to proper stands after paying $1 000 but that did not happen.

“Many of the affected families have not been able to rebuild their lives.”

Brian Nyamande, the Victoria Falls council’s housing director, denied accusations that council failed to provide housing stands after collecting money from victims.

“The people who were at Kinsasha were registered under the government’s Department of Public Works,” Nyamande said..

“Some of them were repatriated to their rural homes and thereafter, 100 stands were availed to cater for those, who did not have anywhere else to go.

“Amongst those 100 people, stands were availed, and we developed in different stages so that some found them at slab level, some received baren land while others got two roomed structures.

“So the monies that are being referred to as payment might not have been completed across board and also in terms of knowing how many people were displaced by the operation and those who benefited from those stands, the district administrator’s office should be able assist.”

He referred further questions to the District Development Coordinator (DDC), saying government kept records of people affected by Operation Murambatsvina.

Simon Muleya, the Hwange DDC, threw the questions back to the Victoria Falls Municipality.

“I came here in January of 2017 so I will not be able to comment on such issues and I doubt these statistics are in our offices,” Muleya said.

“Council should have them because that operation was jointly done with councils.”

Former president Robert Mugabe’s government at the time was accused of launching the vicious operation to punish urban voters, who were repeatedly rejecting the ruling party in elections.

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