Monthly Archives: July 2013

Age of Zinc is proud to present the eighth installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

The Mbare enumeration took place in 1999.  The Federation had been officially launched as an organization in 1998.  We were young and still wanting to grow.

The federation in South Africa was the major support to us.  I went on an exchange to Cape Town in South Africa.  When I saw the federation houses in South Africa I asked myself, “Are we also going to have houses in our country?”

I was not even dreaming of having a house. There was a need for such housing and our future thinking was that we might have houses. The South African houses were very good: Four rooms with electricity. Some have water and some have no water.  I slept in someone’s house, a federation member’s house.  I was asking myself, “Am I going to have a house?  The South African members gave us courage, and belief that it is going to happen through savings.

Daily savings was not difficult to us. If there was no money then we did not save cash but we saved through sharing in ideas.  I understood that just coming to the meeting is saving.  Working together to address challenges and solve problems made me comfortable to be with the others.  But the little that you get, you save.

Before joining this Federation I told myself that I was very poor. I knew about the housing cooperatives but I never even asked to join. I cannot fit with the laws in the cooperative. There is a joining fee and then a fixed amount to be paid each month.

There was then a big housing problem in Harare and it was difficult for people to go and register themselves for the waiting list. I had tried to get registered. But what they asked me to bring with me, there was no way to get them.  During that time they wanted a pay slip and this was the first challenge. The second challenge was the marriage certificate as I do not have one. I was married in the customary law and not with a formal wedding.

But then one of the Federation leaders was the late R______. I remember her telling me in 1999 that she had been on the waiting list since 1972. She had to renew each year.

After we took our officials from Harare on an exchange to Namibia and South Africa, we then had a discussion with them about the rules of the housing waiting list. After this discussion, they let the federation members register on the housing waiting list using our savings booklets. We succeeded in doing this at end of 1999.

After Mbare, we did an enumeration in Dzivarasekwa Extension  and Porta Farm. Before we began, we asked for permission from the police and the councilors so they knew who we were and what we do. During the exercise you could be called for questioning by these people, and you would have to explain what we are doing and why we are doing that again.

We were not stopped from having the enumeration. Then, during the enumeration, some people – local people – asked, “What is happening?” You might find some complications here and there on the questions.  But, in general, it was okay.

We tried to make Porta Farm an area to be upgraded.  In 2005, with Murambatsvina, it was evicted. But in 1999, many people were living there. Now it is green land today.  When we went to the city of Harare to ask for the lan, the city said, “It is not in our boundary. It is the Zvimba Rural District Council area.”

They refused like that until they evicted people.  We had to learn many things.

We did our first housing development in Mavambo (meaning “the beginning”). There were 20 households who were identified to receive the serviced plots that the government made available to us. These people were living in holding camps that the local government had sent them to after evicting them from many areas. We helped by molding bricks, and there were many federation volunteers.

We had many challenges.  There was another housing development after the federation negotiated for land in Victoria Falls.  I did an exchange with Victoria Falls.  We set up a group to get the money back from the residents. These members had taken loans to build houses.

What I remember is some people did not want to pay back their loans. In Victoria Falls we said, ‘We will take off the sheets (the roof sheets).” We said, “Bring back your money and we will bring back the sheets.”

The exchange helped a lot.  The people refused to pay to the local members but paid when outside members came.  We collected some money during that exchange and the people continued to repay.  In this way we learned how to improve our work.

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“In Rome you long for the country; in the country – oh inconstant! – you praise the distant city to the stars.”
— Horace

Age of Zinc is proud to present the seventh installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

In 1998 I began with the Federation and then I took part in the Mbare enumeration the next year. This took three months. The leaders said to me, “Go back to Kuwadzana where you are a treasurer.”

Then we did a cloth house model in Mbare. After the house model there was the big meeting and the official opening. The councilors and the city of Harare were invited.  We spent the whole day doing that.

That is the day that Dialogue on Shelter said to me that, with two other emerging leaders named Davious and Sheela, “We want to be with you after this.”

We started working to mobilize the whole country. There were already four leaders in the Federation and they were taking us to accompany them. I am sure that we were active, which is why they were taking us for the enumeration of other regions.  Dialogue on Shelter said to the four leaders, “We want these three to accompany you.”

The four leaders, they were resisting.  “We do not want them”, they said. “We want to give them to you in the office”.

They were blocking us to be a part of them. They resisted. But Dialogue on Shelter insisted. They have the potential, the staff explained. We started working with them.  Now we have become strong.

As I began to go around the city I saw many problems. In Dzivarasekwa Extension there were just wooden shacks. This was a holding camp. The land had been allocated after the evictions with the visit of the Queen in October 1991 for the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting.

Another holding camp was Porta Farm.  Then there was Hatcliffe Extension.  Some of the people there had been removed from Churu Farm where a politician had promised people land.  I had thought about going there myself but I feared the possibility of eviction.  They stayed by the side of Amamalina Road for weeks and then came to Hatcliffe Extension.

The ones who had the most difficult situation during that time it was those in Dzivarasekwa Extension and Hatcliffe Extension. They had too many people in a small place living in cabins.

There were difficulties in Dzivarasekwa Extensjion because it is a water-logged area and water could flow in their cabins.  Their life was very difficult.  Using communal taps and communal toilets, they were full of water and worms would come up.

They were complaining to the Ministry of Local Government.  For us in Kuwadzana, we were better.  It was difficult to find the money for rentals but people could manage.  There was choice of rentals as housing was plenty during that time.

If I am renting here and the rent is too high, I can go around and ask for accommodation.  There was space for this.  If I could not manage to pay for this room I could find another room that was cheaper.

“We are not polestars. We are here struggling in the dynamics of justice, between the absolutism of faith and reasonable doubt.”
— Van Dyke Parks

Age of Zinc is proud to present the sixth installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

I had a message about the federation in 1997. Two men approached me and told me about the federation. I knew them as neighbours.

They came and said to me, “I know you and you are on the market. We want people like you. People who are not employed and especially women.” And I said “I cannot get the money to save.” And they said: “It is fine. You can save even 50 cents or a dollar.” And I was happy as I can afford to save this. They said: “There are people who will come and teach us and show us what we can do. You can find more – if there are ten or more then they will visit us.”

The guys had to call the leaders of the federation to come to Kuwadzana. They came on the 20th September 1998. It was easy to mobilize people. Very easy. We had more than 30 at the first meeting. Then we bought some savings booklets – I was a treasurer with two other ladies. The savings scheme quickly had 300 members. Nhamoyapera (“poverty has ended” or “no more troubles”) — that is what we called it. It is still there and alive.

This work was new to me. I had never been involved in politics. My father was against it.

When the war started, my father was against any political party. He was very strong during the political period. He was a head man. The guerillas from Mozambique came to him and asked, “Where can we get food?”

But after the war he never wanted to become a political activist. In the rural area, he was helping with the feeding of the soldiers but after he was shot he did not want to be a part of it. In the towns there was beating and burning just like now. He was against all this.

“That confidence trickster gave me an idea. An idea that could be made to work. All it needed was guts and brains. And I think I had them both.”
— Dugmore Boetie

Age of Zinc is proud to present the fifth installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

First I was renting just one room for me and my daughter. We shared one toilet and bathroom. Electricity came during the time that I was renting. It was a fixed one, with no meter and very cheap. The landlord used two rooms and there were five rooms for the lodgers.

My second brother had followed me to Harare in 1992. Then another brother — the younger [fourth] brother — was asked to come and work at Speedrow Water Sprays with the second brother.  The younger brother was working at that company and helping me. He was still doing night school and preparing to take his O level exams.  He was staying with my mother’s brother in Mabelreign.

So with my daughter we were renting a room. The fourth brother was alone. His brother helped him. Then he said that he did not want to write his O levels as he going to fail.

He came to stay with — and I forced myself to rent two rooms. It was 1998. I was doing the sales of vegetables and he was doing temporary jobs. He was bringing some drinks for us — a crate each month — and he was bringing sugar and we could resell.  I stopped working in the market. The crisis was beginning and it was difficult.

There was a man working near Mabelreign. He had a farm and he wanted some workers. So I became a farm worker picking sorghum.

That work is not easy. After the combine harvester had cut the grain, we would go in afterwards. I took my daughter to the farm – we had sadza and milk. Sometimes spinach.  I did not have free time. Really just enough to go to church.

During these years, I tried to also be trained as a security guard. I have a certificate. You pay a fee to be trained.

I thought my life was going to be better. I was trained by Cobra Security but no job after it. After I was trained, I had to walk to Marlborough, which is about 15km from Kuwadzana.

They will tell you that security guard jobs are going to be allocated. “Come to Marlborough Civic Centre,” they say. But at the end of the day they will tell you that there is no work.

I went to order fish to sell. But the fish was not also easy. It was not a fair deal.

Something was happening, this fish for re-selling. Someone was borrowing me the money. I tell you, it took me a year to pay back his money.  I was not able to afford to get back the fish.

I said to myself, “You must stop this.” I started doing a part-time job of digging and washing. I dug the fields for someone and she paid me with a dress and some rice. And my hands were swollen.

She said she could not afford to pay me. My life there was always full of difficulties. It was as if I was in a jail.

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”
— Charles Darwin

Age of Zinc is proud to present the fourth installment in a new memoir from the slums of Harare, Zimbabwe. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

Then, in 1990, I got married, and, in 1991, I was blessed with a child. School had not happened for me and I thought my life will be better if I get married.

My husband really loved me. My daughter — what happened to Moreblessing?  I am sure that my birth was not complicated.  But when she was supposed to roll over, she was not able to do that.  This worried me and I took her to the clinic.  I told the nurses that she was eleven months old and was not doing what the others were doing.  They sent her to Harare central hospital, to the CRIU (child rehabilitation unit).  After classes there, she walked at two years and two months. She walked because of the exercises that she learned there.

I was renting with my husband in Kuwadzana. My husband was a conductor with the Tauya bus company. I was not even working. He was looking after me and the kid. During that time it was good for me. I was able to afford to look after my brothers.  But my brother passed away in 1992 – I think from meningitis.

Going to the Unit was good for Moreblessing but I stopped the exercises because my husband was sick. Now I was telling myself that the life is not wanting me to be free.  My father passed away in 1993 and then my husband also passed away from TB.

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After my husband passed away I started buying vegetables in the wholesale market in Mbare and re-selling in Kuwadzana. What I was doing meant that I could afford to pay for my rental and the food. I was leaving Moreblessing in the house by locking her in the room, and then collecting and carrying the vegetables back on the bus.

In 1995, my mother became mentally disturbed and I went to the rural areas to stay with her while she was in the psychiatric hospital. I stayed with her during her treatments. We thought she was well and we left her at her father’s place.

“Not everyone is sold.”
— Andre Vltchek