Vusumuzi Dube, Senior News Reporter
ONE of Bulawayo’s oldest suburbs — Makokoba — has been red flagged with investigations revealing that it is overcrowded where in some circumstances over 15 people share a single room, Sunday News can reveal.
The situation has further been exacerbated by the problem of shared accommodation within the suburb where in some instances four families are sharing a single room.
Bulawayo City Council officials acknowledged that the suburb was overcrowded with the public relations officer Miss Bongiwe Ngwenya saying their hands were tied in terms of monitoring the number of people who stay in a single room as there was no by-law governing that. She said due to the overcrowding the suburb was now exposed to a number of respiratory and contagious diseases with levels of prostitution and crime also high.
“Yes, Makokoba is overcrowded, the City of Bulawayo is aware of this. The major problem is that there is no by-law that governs the number of people who may stay in a property. The relevant by-laws pertain to rented properties but this has been overtaken by the Government promulgated homeownership scheme.
“When dealing with rented properties, there are policies on overcrowding and the number of people who can stay in a property while this is different from the home ownership scheme,” said Miss Ngwenya.
She revealed that out of 4 802 households in the suburb, 500 were under the shared accommodation scheme.
Miss Ngwenya said while the council had tried to encourage residents in Makokoba to take up residential stands in other suburbs they preferred to remain within the congested suburb.
“The residents in Makokoba have been encouraged to take up residential stands whenever they are available. However, most prefer to be in that locality. In addition, council has a decongestion policy where sharing tenants are separated, for example where one moves out, the remaining one gets to own both units. Further, council is looking for investors for the re-development of the suburb as advertised in the Sunday News of 22 January 2017 in the Investment Prospectus of Council,” Miss Ngwenya said.
However, investigations by Sunday News revealed that while the local authority has a specific resolution regarding the decongestion of Makokoba targeting shared houses, this is not being implemented as council housing officers continued to refer people to houses in the suburb.
It was revealed that while officially council was meant to reduce the number of houses under shared accommodation this was not happening as instead when a family moves out housing officials are quick to replace that family with another one.
“Council officials are lying that they are decongesting these houses under shared accommodation. I have stayed here for over 20 years and during that period I have changed housemates over five times. Every time one family moves out the housing officer is quick to replace it with another family. We have tried questioning the logic of this as we are aware of the initial policy to decongest these houses but we are accused of being selfish,” said a resident who identified himself as Taurai.
Questioned on the allegations raised by residents, Miss Ngwenya claimed that this only took place to quell disharmony where they shift around people who were failing to co-exist in the single room.
“In instances where such cases have happened, the City of Bulawayo will be addressing challenges that are faced by people who share accommodation. Please be advised that in some instances the people who are sharing the houses would be living in disharmony and the home environment would no longer be amicable.
“In such instances the situation gets very bad and ends up involving the police and there being police cases where the members in question start threatening to kill or maim each other. In such cases, we are obligated to move them around and interchange their houses so as to try and maintain order and peace in the community,” said Miss Ngwenya.
Contacted for comment, the suburb’s councillor James Sithole confirmed the predicament residents were faced with. He said the problem dated back to pre-independence times, saying it was up to both the council and central Government to commit themselves to solving the problems.
“Honestly, everything which you are saying about this overcrowding problem is factual, Makokoba is indeed overcrowded. I grew up here and the suburb has continued to face the same problem, especially regarding shared accommodation. I have continuously raised the issue with council because this has a serious bearing on health matters in the suburb. However, the only excuse which I have got is that of lack of funding to develop houses,” said Clr Sithole.
He said it was unfortunate that residents could not afford to leave the suburb because for them to do so they needed to buy residential stands which came with stringent conditions.
“It is unfortunate that the 2006 resolution to decongest the suburb is not being effected because up to now you find a single room with four families and nothing is being done to address this. I believe both council and the Government should come together and solve this matter before the matter blows way out of proportion,” said Clr Sithole.