By Judge Jarachara
Scores of desperate home-seekers thronged Nketa Housing Office in Bulawayo on Wednesday, demanding to know why the local authority has not availed residential stands they purchased five years ago in Emganwini suburb.
The visibly angry mob said the stands are in an area called Emganwini Island.
They were allegedly bought during the dollarisation period and cost between US$5 000 and US$8 000.
Approximately 365 people claim to have bought the stands. The demonstrators claimed that upon full payment for the stands, they were told to prepare for the construction process.
A site plan was availed to enable them to get their plans done, as well as house numbers.
A Chronicle news crew caught up with a group that was chanting slogans.
“We will not leave this place until we get our stands or get arrested. We want our stands! We want our stands!”
Mr Bigboy Ndlovu, a representative of the stand owners, said they felt the arbitration between the city council and a contractor was taking forever to be concluded.
In a letter dated April 25, addressed to the stand owners’ lawyers, Dube and Associates, council legal representatives, Coghlan and Welsh said the Arbitration process had been delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We had the pre-arbitration meeting on the 8th of April 2021 where we agreed on all these issues and the timelines which will culminate in the arbitral award. In other words, the arbitral process has now started in earnest,” read part of the letter.
A resident, who identified himself as Mr Dube, said nothing can take precedence over human interest in this matter.
“When we paid for the stands, we were expecting them to be handed over to us by the end of 2018 or 2019, but that was not the case as the contractor and the city council engaged in a wrangle which I’m told is over payment which the council made in Zimbabwean dollar when they had agreed on United States dollars.
“This has taken a huge toll on us and to make matters worse, the council is not communicating with us. Some of the people we bought stands with are now late. They have killed the spirit of a middle-income earner that is of owning a house.
Since 2018 we were expecting up until now that is the reason why we have decided to come together and take it here. Maybe we might be heard and our problem solved.
“What is it that takes precedence over human interest? This reluctance by the city council must stop if it means paying the contractor, let it happen. If it means allocating us another area let it be done fast before we all die,” he said.
Another demonstrator, 73-year-old Ms Oripa Rushisha struggled to hold her tears back as she spoke to the news crew narrating how she raised the money to buy the stands.
“I worked day and night to raise this money in this old age only to be told that I should wait, until when? What if I die like my four children?
“This is not fair at all and I am disappointed. As you can see, I am struggling to walk on my own and with my condition, I should be staying in my house which I own,” she said.
Mr Prince Dube (27) said his dream of becoming a house owner before the age of 25 was no longer possible.
“It was my wish to be a landlord before I could turn 25, but the city council soiled all what I worked hard for.They have disappointed me to the last point, now I am doubtful if I am going to get the stand. The most painful part of our story is we paid this amount in United States dollars and in full for that matter,” said Mr Dube.
The demonstrators accused the city fathers for failing to consider their plight and said they do not mind being given another place as compensation to the one withheld by the developer.
Many of them are tenants who bemoaned exorbitant prices being charged by landlords and in United States dollars. One of the demonstrators, Mr Steven Mabani, said they bought the stands in 2015 and they were supposed to be handed over in 2018 but that did not happen.
“The council started to play hide and seek after we made full payment for the stands as had been agreed. We engaged them on several occasions to find ways of solving the matter to no avail. By now, I thought I would be staying at my own home instead of what I am today; lodging,” said Mr Mabani.
The demonstrators, who vowed not to leave until they got a satisfactory response from the council, said they are not only disturbed by the council’s delay, but they now fear they might lose their building material to thieves.
Bulawayo City Council corporate communications officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the council is in constant contact with the stand owners through their lawyers as the matter involves a legal process.
“The matter is pending before an arbitrator and the residents are aware of it. We are communicating with them through their lawyers,” she said. The Chronicle