By Patrick Chitumba
Several former Zimasco employees in Shurugwi town were left homeless after they were evicted from the company houses they have been occupying.
Many of the former employees and their families are now living in the open while others have moved in with relatives.
Pictures of stranded families have gone viral on social media platforms and one of them is of a young woman, Ms Mercy Mudumbu holding an infant with her furniture in the background.
Then there is another one of an old woman, Mrs Beauty Mubaiwa holding her chin while sitting on a metal dish with some of her blankets on the wall at her former house.
Husbands of both women are former Zimasco employees.
The former employees have been evicted for failing to pay the increased rentals for the mine houses.
Ms Mudumbu gave birth prematurely in the open after she was evicted from the house and she and her baby were later admitted to Shurugwi District Hospital.
Her baby is now two months old.
“Evictions have hit hard especially children who are now living in the open. Right or wrong, evictions I think should not be allowed in any society. I was evicted when I was seven months pregnant and gave birth on the street before I was taken to Shurugwi District Hospital. I wish the Government would enact laws to protect the woman and children,” said Ms Mudumbu.
Ms Mubaiwa said she is now living in a makeshift hut as she cannot afford to buy a stand .
“The house I was staying in was in the name of my husband. We had been staying there for 23 years. He was retrenched in 2014 and from that time it had been hell for us with the company attempting to evict us. They finally succeeded and we are out in the streets as we have nowhere to go,” she said.
According to Amnesty International, the impacts of a forced eviction are often extremely serious and enduring, especially for people who are already living in poverty.
People lose not only their homes but also personal possessions, social networks, access to work and to services such as water, sanitation, schools and health care after being evicted.
Zimasco says the evicted families were failing to pay rentals and many of them were in arrears running into seveal months.
In a statement, the ferrochrome producer’s spokesperson, Ms Clara Sadomba said evictions were necessitated by a lack of will by tenants to regularise their stay in company accommodation.
She said this made it difficult for them to be able to maintain the houses and provide essential services.
There is one communal toilet for more than 100 families.
“The affected former employees have left the company through retrenchment, retirement or resignation and are therefore treated like any other tenant renting our houses,” said Ms Sadomba.
Zimasco former employees residents association chairman Mr Naison Moyo said he was among those evicted.
“I now sleep on the streets or at friends’ houses. We are calling on the Government to intervene because we are suffering following the evictions,” he said.
Mr Jonathan Javangwe said they tried to mobilise residents to clear their arrears but the new challenge is that the company is no longer accepting the money of those evicted.
He said most of those evicted were supposed to be sold the houses they were renting but the company later reneged on its promise to sell them the houses like what it did to managers.
“The company sold managers the houses they are staying in. The same arrangement was made for us but the company later changed goal posts, ” said Mr Javangwe.
Last month seven former employees were arrested when they tried to resist eviction and spent one night at Shurugwi Police Station.
One of those arrested, Mr Tinago Nguluve, said they resisted eviction because they felt that what the company had done was not procedural.
“We did not receive any notice or letters of demand but we only saw the police coming to take our property out saying we had been evicted,” he said.
“We are still living in the open and some have erected temporary shelter outside the houses they used to occupy. We were not prepared for this and we don’t know what to do,” he said.
Mrs Loveness Chirinda said she has been sleeping in the open with her family including a three months old baby.
“It is a difficult situation we are in. It is actually shocking because I have been paying my rent every month and I have been acknowledging my arrears with the company,” she said.
Shurugwi Councillor, Cde Freddy Ncube condemned the evictions saying the company should have given the tenants some time to look for alternative accommodation.
“The move is inhumane because there was no notice, people just saw lawyers coming with the police to evict them,” he said. The Chronicle.