The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
BULAWAYO’s oldest suburb, Makokoba is still struggling to resolve the issue of shared accommodation, with over 170 houses having three to four families sharing a single room, investigations have revealed.
Shared accommodation is a colonial era phenomenon where single male workers, with no families to stay with but working in the city were made to share one big room with an outside flush toilet.
Investigations by this publication revealed that this colonial era ill is still prevalent in the suburb with indications that there are now significant levels of overcrowding and health hazard owing to cases where four whole families share a single room dividing their corners with makeshift curtains. This has seen a situation where between 16 and 20 people share a single room relying on the single small flush toilet outside.
“I was born in this house (room) in 1994, there is no other home I know, my parents have previously tried to get alternative accommodation but this has been in vain as council only offered stands and as you know it is expensive to construct a house nowadays.
“We have tried to engage council on our situation but it is rather difficult because whatever deliberations made, they are money determined. As it is I have managed to get myself a small corner within the same house where I am raising my young family,” said one Mr Nkosi Nxumalo commenting on the matter last Thursday.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu acknowledged the problem saying the local authority was doing all it can to resolve the issue citing that the process of relocating those affected was dependent on the availability of vacant houses and stands.
“According to our books there are 173 houses affected by this phenomenon. Efforts have been made by council to move some of the affected beneficiaries who have the ability to build their own houses to Cowdray Park for those who are able to build their own houses while Council continues to seek donor funds for those unable to.
“Council is also in the process of rebuilding Makokoba. This involves densification of the area, construction of detached housing and change of tenure from lease hold to free hold title,” said Mrs Mpofu.
Questioned on the recommended number of people meant to share the room, the council spokesperson said their recognised figure was just two people per room meaning that in some cases the rooms are overcrowded by 18 people.
“Two people are recommended to stay in a shared accommodation. It should be noted that these were built to cater for single male workers who had no families to stay with. We however, continue to encourage the tenants to obtain housing forms as they are considered when council is allocating stands to low income earners,” said the council spokesperson.
Makokoba MP, Alderman James Sithole said the issue of shared accommodation was one that continued to haunt the suburb for a long period noting that there was a need for all stakeholders to come together and come up with a lasting solution.
“When I first began as a councillor I inherited this problem, now I am the MP of the area, still the problem is there which shows you how worrying it is. We really have to see what can be done so that this matter is resolved once and for all. The honest truth we cannot be in the 21st century and still have those squalid conditions of living, it is colonial and should not be ignored,” said Ald Sithole.
A couple of years ago the local authority announced an ambitious plan to redevelop the suburb in what they termed the Makokoba Local Priority Plan. According to the plan, all the existing available land within the current municipal area will be used prior to developing new land outside the existing boundaries.
The expansion exercise is also aimed at establishing an area which accommodates certain types of income generating activities that is not obtrusive to the predominant residential zoning.
The local authority also aims to reduce negative environmental impacts such as excessive noise, air pollution, vibrations and vehicular intrusions; regulate traffic movement and reduce traffic conflict and to provide a strategic planning environment that will meet future needs and challenges for a responsive and sustainable Makokoba redevelopment.
“The proximity of Makokoba to the CBD has some inherent advantages for the local population such as minimal transport costs and access to high order services. However, the age and condition of infrastructure has limited its contribution to the fiscal wealth of the city.
“A variety of funding options are to be explored including partnerships and Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangements with both local and foreign developers, redevelopment and densification are the key to the project. It should also be noted that the aspect of shared infrastructure is critical in the proposal,” reads a council report.
Historically, Makokoba was the first black African township in the city, it has been termed the home of arts and culture, with the Amakhosi Cultural Centre located just in the vicinity.
The suburb was named after the actions of Mr Fallon, the then native commissioner, who used to walk around with a stick. The name comes from the word ukukhokhoba which in the local Ndebele language means “bending and walking with a stick”. It was referring to Mr Fallon as “the little old man who walks with a stick”.